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Sporting Days 



By JOHN TAINTOR FOOTE 

SPORTING SKETCHES 



HELL CAT 

DAUGHTER OF DELILAH 

CHANGE OF IDOLS 

FULL PERSONALITY 

FATAL GESTURE 

TRUB'S DIARY 

POCONO SHOT 

A WEDDING GIFT 

THE SONG OF THE DRAGON 

THE LOOK OF EAGLES 

DUMB-BELL OF BROOKFIELD 

THE LUCKY SEVEN 

BLISTER JONES 



Sporting Day's 

By 
John Taintor Foote 




Illustrated by Arthur D. Fuller 



D. APPLETON-CENTURY COMPANY 

INCORPORATED 

NEW YORK 1937 LONDON 



Contents 

PAGE 

THE BLIGHTING OF JEPTHA Y . . . . I 

DOG UPON THE WATERS 21 

THE DIVER DOES HIS STUFF . . . . . 39 

MY FIRST DEPRESSION . . 59 

OLD JOE 77 

THE FALL OF MR. BARNTSTOPLE .... '99 

LILY BELLE GETS THE AIR 121 

THE DIVER TAKES TO PINOCHLE . . . . 143 



Illustrations 



PAGE 

HERE SHE CAME CRAWLING ALONG BEHIND ME . . 2 
I CARRIED HER TO SHORE 22 

I BECAME AWARE THAT MY GALLERY HAD NOT DE- 
SERTED ME 40 

THE BLUE PYLE'S LEGS BEGAN TO MOVE IN A SORT OF 

PAWING MOTION 60 

POOK DEVOTED A MOMENT TO SCRATCHING HIS KINKY 

GRAY DOME 78 

"STAND BACK, CAP, AN* GIMME ROOM!" . . . . 100 

THE POINTERS BEGAN TO SOAR BACK AND FORTH 
ACROSS THE FIELD 122 

I WATCHED THE DIVER SPIN, TWIRL, AND STAGGER 
DOWNSTREAM 144 



The Blighting of Jeptha 




HERE SHE CAMDB CRAWLING ALONG BEHIND ME. 



THE BLIGHTING OF JEPTHA 

A MAN'S first love may easily have been a redhead, 
with a copious sprinkling of magenta freckles. She 
may have been a sprightly lady with match-stick un- 
derpinning and a generous endowment of buck-teeth. 
In the matter of the female form divine, it is certain 
that she ran chiefly to arms and legs or vaguely sug- 
gested a Christmas plum pudding. Even so, who can 
recall her cherished lineaments, the shrill cadence of 
her voice, the angular or rotund contours of her per- 
son, without a wistful sigh, a warmth at the heart, 
a sudden quickening of the pulse? 

A similar nostalgic yearning comes to most of us 
at the thought of our first shotgun. It was, in all 
probability, a single-barreled weapon, chambered and 
bored, after a fashion, for 2O-gauge shells, with a 
kick that left a still-scrawny biceps richly black and 
blue* The assemblage of this haphazard specimen of 
the gun maker's art was of such a dubious nature 
that to "break 11 it required what looked like a strain- 

3 



4 SPORTING DAYS 

ing attempt at hari-kari or it flipped open with sus- 
picious ease. 

Be that as it may, who can dream of that once- 
venerated symbol of the chase and the god4ike 
power it placed in one's hands over the life-span of 
unsuspecting red squirrels, chipmunks and even the 
too-slothful rabbit, without a softening of the inner 
man quite as devastating as the recollection of a dar- 
ing peck in the cloakroom? 

The answer to both these questions is to be found 
in the person of one Jep Sparling, a fairly reliable 
plumber when, as he says, the notion takes him, but 
an indispensable companion if one wishes to know 
what coverts of Westchester County, New York, 
the evasive timberdoodle, mate and offspring, will 
favor, as rest-rooms, in their uncertain journey 
southward. 

I am prepared to swear that thoughts of his first 
girl and his first gun leave Jep completely cold* I 
am forced to this conclusion because of a recital of 
certain facts, pertaining to the past, which he re- 
cently divulged. With a pair of setters reproachfully 
intent on each morsel of lunch that passed our lips, 
he spoke as follows: 

"Will I ever forget my first shotgun? Brother, 
I never will, I'll remember that cornshucker as long 



THE BLIGHTING OF JEPTHA 

;ot strength to twitch a trigger finger. I came 
ss this outrage by reason of collecting nine 
two hundred and seventy-five thousand and 

odd soap coupons and delivering enough milk 

at half a cent a quart to amass and forward, together 
with said coupons, the dizzy sum of six bucks to a 
bunch of racketeers, then in the mail-order business, 
at Kansas City, Missouri. 

"In due time back she came, and for a couple of 
months I slept with hen No kidding, I used to take 
that gun to bed with me so nobody could steal her 
in the night without killing me first She was a 16- 
gauge single-barrel, weighing right at 8 pounds, that 
handled like a post-hole digger. I was twelve, going 
on thirteen, at the time, with nothing to bother me 
except my old man, who could lay a razor strop, that 
heM made out of a heavy harness trace, spang on the 
seat of my pants with a dexterousness that would of 
surprised you. I don't recollect ever seeing his equal 
since. 

"Not that the old man was too numerous with 
that strop, I could get by with the average amount 
of orneryness, including corn-silk cigarettes, with 
just warnings ; but there was two things I had to do. 
One was milk our cow, and the other was to be at 
the schoolhouse before the 4 morning bell stopped 



6 SPORTING DAYS 

ringing. That cow got milked and I got educated - 
or else. 

"At that time I was sappy as a spring maple over 
a female child of the name of Luella Tansy that 
lived up our street and around the corner till you 
came to the first house past the blacksmith shop. 
Our pasture lot ended at Luella's back yard. I'd 
hang on the pasture fence, summer evenings, and 
make a noise like a hoot-owl, which was the signal 
for her to come out and scream and dodge at low- 
flying bats while I explained what a great guy I was. 

"After the gun came I put in an evening telling 
her how I was practically going to exterminate the 
partridges and rabbits from our section of the state 
when fall came around. I promised to take her with 
me on a few big hunts. I said I'd let her carry the 
game. She dodged at a bat that was twenty feet 
above her head and said, 'Oh, thank you, JeppyP 
and that was that. 

"The fall got there after a while, but so did 
school. It put a terrible crimp in my plans to mas- 
sacre the game for miles around. It was against the 
law to shoot on a Sunday, and for four straight 
Saturdays it rained. Right after that I came down 
with the mumps, and that saved our fur and feathers 
from destruction for another three weeks while I 



THE BLIGHTING OF JEPTHA ^ 

stayed in bed and ate what I could chew which was 
chicken soup. 

"They sent me back to school on a Monday. 
Late Tuesday evening old man Carr, that owned a 
farm about nine miles out, brought a load of fodder 
in for our cow and told me there was a wild goose 
on Amber Lake and why didn't I go out there with 
my new gun and see if I could get a shot at it. 

"If he'd told me a grizzly was loose in the woods, 
it wouldn't have given me a bigger jolt. Geese didn't 
stop in our section they just stream-lined it on 
through, 'way up yonder; but I'd laid in bed and 
heard 'em go over, and just the sound of 'em would 
make my heart thud like a pile-driven I'd jump up 
and tear for the window and flatten my nose against 
the window-pane, trying to get a sight of them 
buglers; and do you know, I'll do the same right 
now. 

"Well, something had to be done about this sky- 
cruiser out on Amber Lake that was certain. I 
couldn't count on a wild goose being enough inter- 
ested in my schooling to wait till Saturday; so I 
figured the crisis called for a relapse from scholar- 
ship- In short, I aimed to play hooky next day. 

"I went into the house and got my gun and some 
shells, and sneaked 'em out and hid J em in the 



8 SPORTING DAYS 

fodder. I didn't sleep much that night. When I 
wasn't seeing myself drawing a bead on that honker, 
I was thinking about just how the razor strop felt 
after the old man got the range and windage doped 
out and began to find center with every shot. 

"Next morning I started off in my school suit with 
my books under my arm, as nice as you please, but 
I circled back and put the books in the cow manger 
and hauled my gun and shells out of the fodder and 
beat it across the pasture, heading for the road to 
Amber Lake. 

"Well, who should be out in her back yard, with 
an armful of stove-wood from the wood pile, but 
Luella. She asked me what I was doing with my gun, 
and I told her I was going hunting. She said I didn't 
have time because the first bell had rung already. I 
threw a chest and said I had more important things 
to think of than school bells. Then I gave her the 
big news. I told her I was going out to Amber Lake 
and shoot a wild goose. 

"Before I could stop her she dropped the stove- 
wood and over the fence she came. She said, C A wild 
goose! Mercy goodness 1 Lemme go with you, 
Jeppy aw, please I' 

"Did I let her go with me? That was forty years 



THE BLIGHTING OF JEPTHA 9 

ago and, brother, I still get sort of low and feverish 
when I remember that I did. 

"It was better than six miles to Amber Lake, and 
we hoofed it all the way. We followed the branch- 
line railroad for about three miles. I skipped a tie at 
every stride to show I was a man. It took some 
stretching, and pretty soon my leg muscles began to 
ache, but I kept right at it. Luella patted along, hit- 
ting a tie to each step, or else walking a rail with her 
hand on my shoulder. 

"The toughest part of the trip was the trestle 
over Red Horse Rift. It was safe as a church, but 
if you looked down between the ties you could see 
the river running fifty feet below, and Luella began 
letting out squeaks and saying it made her dizzy. 

"I'd got her half-way across by holding her arm 
and taking it slow when she squeaked and stopped 
dead and said what if a train should come along. I 
told her this was just a branch with only one train 
a day that came by around noon. She said how did I 
know, and I told her everybody knew it and that I 
had walked the trestle thousands of times and to 
quit being a scairt-cat or I'd leave her where she 
was. That brought her along, all right, but she kept 
watching up the track like she expected a train to 
sneak around the bend on her any minute and she 



10 SPORTING DAYS 

kept saying she wished she hadn't come. I said I 
wished it a darn sight worse than she did, and she 
said I wouldn't feel so smart if God sent a special 
train down that track on account of us playing 
hooky. 

"I didn't hardly expect to find any wild goose on 
"he lake by the time we got there, which was close 
to eleven o'clock, but there he was, right in the mid- 
dle, with his long black neck poked up like a stick 
Df licorice. Did I get a kick out of seeing him setting 
sut there? Brother, I did! I watched him through 
some blueberry bushes for fifteen or twenty minutes, 
just looking at him. Then I began to study what to 
io. 

"Now that I saw him I was crazy-afraid he'd get 
jp and be on his way any minute. I didn't know 
enough to figure he was probably gut-shot, or he 
shouldn't of been there in the first place. I thought 
le'd just took a notion to set out there all by his- 
self, and I thought up a kind of prayer. I said, *Oh, 
Sod, please keep him settin' till I get a boat.' 

"The boat I had in mind was an old flat-bottom 
:hing that I knew about from fishing for bullheads, 
[t was down at the end of the lake, last time I was 
:here, and we went around to that end, and there she 



THE BLIGHTING OF JEPTHA II 

was, in all her glory, about to sink from an overdose 
of rain-water. 

"I tried to pull her up on shore, but all I needed 
for that was a couple of good willing mules that 
would lay right down to it; so I waded in and tilted 
some of the water out of her and went to bailing 
with a worm can I found under a seat. It was a 
small-size baking-powder can holding maybe half a 
pint. By the time I'd got the water out of her I 
don't think I could have raised my gun up to shoot 
if the goose had swum down to watch me work. 

"I rested a spell and thought things over. I'd 
heard enough about wild geese to know I couldn't 
row out to this one and blaze away. It looked like 
the only thing to do was to get up-wind of him and 
lay down in the boat and see if I could drift close 
enough to get a shot. Not so dumb for a 12-year- 
old if you ask me. I don't know but what I'd 
handle the proposition the same way right today. 

"The trouble was, the boat was at the down-wind 
end of the lake and I had to get it up pretty near 
to the other end. I told Luella what I aimed to do 
and she said, C A boat ride ! Goody !' and hopped in. 

"Have you ever rowed a flat-bottom horse-trough 
without any keel three miles against the wind, trying 
to hug the shore and miss snags and keep your eye 



2 SPORTING DAYS 

m a goose all at the same time ? I ain't never done 
t since, and it's going to be a long time yet before 

do. I remember Luella kept asking me why we 
lidn't go faster. I don't know but what I hold that 
igainst her as much as anything that happened. 

"When both hands was solid blisters most of 
em broke and my back-bone felt like it would 
plinter if I moved quick, I'd got about five hun- 
Ired yards past the goose. He hadn't stirred a web 
hat I could see just sat there with his neck up, 
waiting for my next move. 

"I rowed out till I was dead up-wind of him, and 
mlled in the oars and told Luella to lay down flat. 
>he wouldn't. She said if she laid down in her school 
Iress in that dirty, wet boat her mother would kill 
ter. I had to push her down and step on her, I re- 
nember, before I could get her to do it. Then I 
rawled forward to the bow and laid down myself. 

"There was a crack where the top of the side- 
wards had pulled away from the bow piece, and I 
.ept my head down and watched the goose through 
hat. As we drifted down to him he strained his 
leek to get his head up another inch, but he never 
rioved. I expect we got about sixty yards from him. 
was beginning to kind of dent in the gun stock and 
>arrel with my fingers when Luella spoke up. She 



THE BLIGHTING OF JEPTHA 13 

said it was 'way past dinner time and she was awful 
hungry. 

"Well, the goose went away from there. Them 
big wings of his began smacking the water till he 
got a couple of feet above it. Then he flapped down 
to the other end of the lake and pitched. I told 
Luella she could sit up now. That's all I told her. 
It wasn't any place to really tell her, because if I had 
started to get her told right I'd of throwed her 
overboard. 

"What helped save Luella was me being so busy 
watching where the goose lit, which was in the nar- 
row end of the lake about thirty yards off from a 
patch of reeds. That was the key to the situation 
them reeds. All I had to do now was to go 
around the lake to where they were and crawl across 
a open space to 'em and let him have it. It seemed 
like a two-mile walk would be a pleasure after row- 
ing that boat; but when I'd got at it, I knew I'd 
"done things I liked better. 

"That side of the lake was mostly hemlock 
swamp. By the time you've gone a ways, stumbling 
over sunk logs and stepping into bog holes, you 
begin to get sort of discouraged. It liked to killed 
Luella. I tried to make her sit down on a stump and 
wait for me, but she said she wouldn't stay alone 



14 SPORTING DAYS 

in the swamp for two million dollars on account 
of there was bound to be snakes in a place like that. 
Luella was afraid of a lot of things, but snakes was 
her special dread and horror. 

"By the time we got to the edge of the hemlock, 
just in from the open space behind the reeds, she 
was whimpering like a sick puppy* I told her to stay 
where she was while I got down and crawled to the 
reeds, but the snake idea still had her. She said 
she'd rather crawl a mile than have a snake drop 
down from a tree and crush her to a pulp or sink 
his fangs in her and kill her dead with poison. 

"I said all right she could crawl out there with 
me, but I said if she let out so much as one whisper 
I'd push her down out of sight in the swamp and 
throw stones on top of the body. She said I wouldn't 
dare do such a thing on account of they'd hang me 
for it, and I told her I wouldn't care if they did if 
she scairt that goose again. When I got down and 
started crawling for the reeds, here she came crawl- 
ing along behind me, being mighty careful to cut 
out the whimper I'd been hearing for the last hour. 

"Well, the bare spot turned out to be bog, mostly. 
By the time we got to the reeds Luella needn't have 
worried about what laying down in the boat had 



THE BLIGHTING OF JEPTHA IIJJ 

done to her dress, and the only thing I could of used 
my school suit for was cleaning out the cowshed. 

"We got to the reeds all right and worked 
through them nice and careful. The wind was mak- 
ing 'em rattle, and that helped a lot. I crawled till 
I saw the shimmer of the lake through the reeds. I 
raised up slow and easy, and there he was I 

"Brother, that was sumpin 1 I could see the white 
band under his throat and the black on his head and 
neck and the gray feathers on his back and wings. 
I could even see one of his little round eyes he 
was that close. He looked like my meat, but my 
heart started to try to jump right out of me and I 
began to shake till my teeth rattled. 

"I waited a minute to steady down before I poked 
my gun ahead of me through the reeds. I got on my 
knees by easy stages and cocked the gun. It sounded 
like somebody had dropped a sledge on a anvil, and 
I missed two full breaths and five or six heart-beats 
till I saw the goose hadn't moved. I was drawing 
down on him when Luella turned loose a scream that 
raised my hat right up off my head and stood every 
hair straight out from the back of my neck. I found 
out afterwards that what we called a mussrat in 
them days had drug hisself across one of her legs. 

"I doubt if a Iroquois with a scalp-knife, in times 



1 6 SPORTING DAYS 

past, ever brought a shriek that would of matched 
Luella's out of any female's chest. Every muscle I 
had jerked tight, including the one in my trigger 
finger. The gun went off and kicked me over back- 
wards on top of Luella. 

"When I got up, Mr. Honker was down the lake 
a couple of hundred yards, eight feet up in the air 
and getting higher. He kept on working for altitude 
till he could clear the trees at the other end of the 
lake, and over them he went and on out of sight. 
He must have been a sick goose, but I guess Luella's 
scream and that gunshot right in his ear had scairt 
him so bad he plumb forgot it. 

"You'd of thought that would of been all from 
Luella for that day, but it wasn't. I'd got her to the 
branch-line trestle on the way home, with her cry- 
ing most of the way about her dress being ruined 
and missing her dinner and how tired she was and 
what-not. When we were pretty well out on the 
trestle, a train whistled on the main line over the 
other side of the hill, and Luella let out another 
screech. It didn't hold a candle to her mussrat effort, 
but she throwed her arms around me at the same 
time and knocked the gun out of my hand. I tried 
to make a grab for it, but I couldn't get Luella un- 
wound from me in time, and I saw the gun bounce 



THE BLIGHTING OF JEPTHA 117 

i one of the rails and slide between the ties and 

id over end down into Red Horse Rift. 

t was beginning to get dark, and I was too beat 

think about making any more moves that day; 
[ proved right there I was a well-meaning boy, 
ys trying- to do the right thing. Instead of push- 
Luella after the gun, I just gave her one little 

in the pants and took her by the neck and 
:hed her the rest of the way across the trestle. 
iVhen I got home, Mother took a look at my 

01 suit and came close to tying Luella's all-time 
-and-screech record. Then she said, 'Oh, Jeptha, 
* Perkins was over about you not being at school 

y.' 

The old man didn't say much. He just got a 
of a far-away look in his eye and said, 'I milked 
Jerse myself.' Then he crooked a finger at me 
led the way to the preserve and pickle room, 
h was always the scene of major operations. I 
, of think what followed was another all-time 
rd. I know the old man never equaled it again 
;lf that I can recall. 

[ went out to Red Horse Rift again next day, 
t after school, and took off my clothes and 
ed out and felt around with my feet till I stubbed 



1 8 SPORTING DAYS 

my toe against the gun. Then I ducked under and 
got hold of her and brought her to shore. 

"After I'd got dressed and had quit shivering 
enough to put in a shell, I started to hunt some on 
the way home. I was after rabbits especial. I didn't 
come across any, but I did see a screech-owl setting 
in a walnut tree back of the cowshed right in our 
pasture. I drawed a bead on him and touched her off. 

4 'Well, I don't know what happened to the 
screech-owl, but I've got a kind of general idea what 
happened to me. I got this nick in my ear and this 
here dent-like on my left hand and a furrow in my 
scalp that you could still see the scar of if it wasn't 
for the hair. 

"The gun must have lit muzzle down when she 
fell from the trestle, and a lot of Red Horse Rift 
was clay bottom that would plug up a gun barrel as 
tight as a cork. At any rate, when I came to, I was 
setting on the ground with quite a lot of gun left. 
That is to say, I still had the stock and half the 
barrel. 

"A couple of days after that Luella appears out- 
side my window. I couldn't see her good on account 
of bandages, but I could hear her all right. She said, 
'Yoo hoo, Jeppy! Mother says I can't go with you 
any more.' 



THE BLIGHTING OF JEPTHA 1 9 

"I was still pretty shaky, but I wasn't so weak 
but what I could get up out of bed and get to the 
window, which I did. 

"I said, 'Listen, Luella. You go on home and tell 
your mother that her and I have the same ideas 
exactly.* 

"Well, let's go and kill us a couple of woodcock. 
I'll give these two sandwiches to the dogs. You, 
Fan! Stay away from that I Look, will you! The 
big mallet-head has went and let her take his sand- 
wich from him. Don't it beat hell what a poor dumb 
he will stand for from a she 1" 



Dog Upon the Waters 




I CARRIED HER TO SHORE. 



DOG UPON THE WATERS 

MYRTLE is dead. Poor funny, little snipe-nosed 
Myrtle. I left her, bored to extinction, at a gun club 
in Maryland. Between shooting seasons, life to her 
was a void. It consisted of yawns, the languid pur- 
suit of an occasional flea, the indifferent toying with 
bones and dog biscuits and a mournful, lackluster 
gazing at fields and thickets near by. 

During these dreary months she was never chained 
or confined in any way. Self hunting, which spoils 
so many gun dogs, did not affect Myrtle. Occasion- 
ally, when the dragging days became more than she 
could bear, she would betake herself listlessly to 
quail cover, find a covey, point it for a moment, flush 
it and watch the birds whir off into the pines. She 
would then return, sighing heavily, to a twitching 
nap somewhere around the clubhouse. 

She must have perished during one of these efforts 
to break the monotony, of existence in a gunless 
world, because a letter from the club steward tells 

33 



24 SPORTING DAYS 

me that she was caught in a muskrat trap in the big 
marsh and drowned. The big marsh is perhaps a half 
mile from the clubhouse. 

Drowned! Except for Chesapeakes and a spaniel 
or two, I never saw a better swimmer. And yet, in 
preventing a similar tragedy, she became my dog, 
body and soul. Also I learned to sniff audibly when 
scientific fellows announce in my presence that ani- 
mals cannot reason. 

And now, I fear me, I shall have to divulge a 
secret that has been closely kept for many a day. I 
am about to spread reluctantly on the printed page 
the one formula for securing the kind of quail dog 
that fills an owner with unspeakable joy from dawn 
to dark, year in, year out, come heat or cold, or 
drought or rain. 

It has nothing to do with sending a check to a 
professional breeder and then waiting, all expectant, 
for a shipping crate to be delivered at one's door. It 
has nothing to do with raising endless litters of dis- 
temper-ridden puppies. If you want the rarest, the 
most perfect instrument for sport in all the world, 
and not the average plodder and flusher of commerce 
or home industry, stick to my formula. I set it down 
exactly as it was given to me by a wise man of the 
South many years ago. 



DOG UPON THE WATERS 25 

Here it is: "A Georgia cracker will sell any- 
thing his land, his mule, his house, his wife. By 
God, he'll sell a bird dog a real one, I mean. Just 
show him cash money and he'll reach for it.'* 

These words after I had learned their true sig- 
nificance accounted, some years ago, for my spend- 
ing a winter in Atlanta. My string of gun dogs, so 
my handler told me, had petered out. I was looking 
for another string, and Atlanta is the clearing house 
for information about noteworthy setters and point- 
ers located in the various counties of south and 
central Georgia where the most quail and, ipso 
facto, the most good gun dogs are found. Working 
out from Atlanta by motorcar, as rumors of dogs 
that knew their business drifted into town, I had se- 
cured four pointers. I had shot over perhaps fifty 
dogs in selecting them. The four were all fast, wide- 
going, covey finders. Class dogs are good for about 
three hours at top speed. I, therefore, had a pair for 
mornings and a pair for afternoons, but I needed 
something that would stay in closer and go slower 
and find singles an all-day dog to back up my 
four whirlwinds. 

One evening a voice spoke over the telephone a 
voice that I knew well. The voice said: 4 'Listen. The 
foreman of our bottling plant was down below 



26 SPORTING DAYS 

Macon last week. He got plenty birds. He's been 
telling me about a little setter bitch he saw work that 
sounds like what you're after. He says he can fix it 
for us to go down and shoot over her next Saturday. 
What say?" 

"How far is it?" 

" 'Bout a hundred and twenty miles." 

"Does your foreman know a good dog when he 
sees one?" 

"Yep I" 

"What does he say she's like?" 

"He says she's a ball of fire." 

"Doing what?" 

"Finding singles coveys too." 

"All right, have him fix it." 

Thanks to that telephone conversation, my glance 
rested upon Myrtle for the first time about eight 
o'clock the following Saturday morning. She came 
cat-footing from somewhere behind a paintless shack, 
set in three or four acres of cotton stalks, at her 
master's whistle. 

I took one look at her. Then my eyes swung re- 
proachfully to the bottling-plant foreman who was 
responsible for, and had accompanied us on, a one- 
hundred-and-twenty-mile drive to see hen 



DOG UPON THE WATERS 27 

"Never you mind," said he stoutly. "You want a 
bird dog, don't you?" 

I did want a bird dog. I have ever been contemp- 
tuous of him who goes gunning with a silky-coated, 
bench-show type of setter calculated to drive a 
sportsman to undreamed-of heights of profanity with 
one hour's work in the field. But this specimen be- 
fore me was well, I felt that I could never bring 
myself to admitting the ownership of such a dog. 

I had been told she was little. She was. She did 
not weigh much more than twenty pounds. She had 
a wavy black-white-and-ticked coat that gave her a 
claim on the setter family. Her muzzle was so 
pointed that her head suggested the head of a fox 
a black fox except for a pair of drooping bird-dog 
ears. Her tail was short, clubby and without any 
flag. She carried it drooping and a bit to one side. 
Her eyes were the yellow fox eyes that belonged in 
such a head. Her gait, as she had come loping to us, 
seemed more cat than fox, but it reminded me of 
both. 

Delicacy made me omit the opening of the ritual 
expected at such a time. "How's she bred?" was 
never spoken. I inquired without interest about her 
age. 



28 SPORTING DAYS 

"Comin 5 three. Reck'n me an' you better stay to- 
gether, an' yoh friends hunt their dogs." 

"All right," I agreed feebly. I was in for it! A- 
hunting we must go 1 

And a-hunting we did go. My friend and the bot- 
tling-plant man with two of the former's dogs in one 
direction ; my hapless self, with the unspeakable little 
setter and her lanky owner, in another. She had been 
named Myrtle, he told me, after his old woman. I 
had caught a glimpse of the "old woman" through 
the door of the shack ere we set forth. She was all 
of sixteen. 

We walked in silence up a lane, and so came to 
fields and promising cover. "Get along, Myrt," said 
my companion, in a conversational tone, and Myrt 
drifted to our left into some high grass and dis* 
appeared. We found her presently, perfectly still, 
looking without particular interest straight before 
her. "She's got birds," I heard. And this, indeed, was 
true, if our finding a covey twenty yards ahead of 
her proved it. Accustomed to the tense rigidity on 
point of more orthodox shooting dogs, Myrt's 
method was disconcerting. 

I shall not attempt to describe that day my first 
day afield with Myrtle. She found, in her cat-fox 
fashion, twelve coveys, as I remember. After each 



DOG UPON THE WATERS 29 

covey find, she proceeded to point and promptly re- 
trieve, when killed, every scattered bird of every 
covey or so it seemed to me. And the day was hot, 
and the day was dry. Incidentally her master shot 
rings around me. 

Her final exhibition that evening would have set- 
tled my desire to call her mine if she had not already 
won me completely hours before. We had joined' my 
friend and the bottling-plant foreman. They had 
found two coveys and a few singles, had killed four 
birds, and my friend's pair of pointers were the 
apple of his eye. 

"There just weren't birds in the country we 
worked over," my friend explained. 

I saw the owner of Myrtle open his mouth to 
speak, then close it resolutely. We started down the 
lane to the house, my friend, with his dogs at heel, 
in the lead; Myrtle, cat-footing behind her master, 
in the rear. 

The dusk had closed in softly about us. It was al- 
ready too dark for decent shooting. The lane down 
which we plodded had a high wire fence on either 
side, with pine woods to the left and a flat, close- 
cropped field to the right. 

Suddenly I heard a whine behind me. I stopped 
and turned. Myrtle was trying to squeeze through 



30 SPORTING DAYS 

the right-hand wire fence to get into the field be- 
yond. 

"Birds out yonder," said Myrtle's owner. 

I called to my friend and explained. 

Now his dogs had just passed that way without a 
sign. Also, the field was almost as bare of cover as a 
billiard table. 

"Out there I" he snorted. "Wait till we get back 
to Atlanta. Maybe we'll find a covey in the middle 
of Five Points." 

Perhaps I should say here that Five Points is to 
Atlanta what Trafalgar Square is to London. 

Myrtle's owner met the insult by picking her up 
and dropping her over the fence. She went straight 
out into the field and stopped. 

There followed an exhibition of fence climbing 
against the watch by my friend and the bottling-plant 
foreman. They managed to scratch down two birds 
from the covey that roared up in the gloom some- 
where out ahead of Myrtle. 

Thirty minutes later she was stretched out on the 
back seat of the car on her way to Atlanta, too tired 
to wonder where she was going or with whom. 

She cost me steady, gentlemen, don't throw any- 
hing; just observe the workings of the formula 
forty dollars. The amount was simply spread care- 



DOG UPON THE WATERS 31 

lessly before her owner. The result was inevitable. 

And so I became the owner of Myrtle. But that 
was all. I made a point of feeding her myself. I 
brought her into the house and begged her to accept 
my favorite overstuffed chair. I petted her fondly. 
She accepted food and chair without enthusiasm. She 
barely submitted to the caresses. She was not inter- 
ested in a mere owner. She wanted a master. She 
wanted the lanky cracker that was clear. As to the 
matter of forty dollars changing hands, she com- 
pletely ignored the transaction. 

Having endured a few days of this, I accepted an 
invitation to go down with one of the best quail shots 
in the South to shoot with friends of his near Ameri- 
cus. I wanted birds smacked right and left over 
Myrtle. I wanted her to see shooting that was shoot- 
ing, with tne lanky cracker far, far away. This, I felt, 
might aid her perception of property rights. I loaded 
her into the car then, among a reassuring welter of 
gun cases, shell boxes and shooting coats, and, lest 
she be distracted while learning that forty dollars 
is forty dollars, I left the four whirlwinds straining 
at their chains, yelping prayers and curses after me, 
as we drove off. 

Eventually we reached a plantation house and its 
broad acres, over which we were to shoot, to be 



32 SPORTING DAYS 

greeted by two tall brothers who owned it alL A 
mincing, high-tailed pointer, who seemed to be walk- 
ing on eggs, and a deep-muzzled, well-feathered 
setter helped to welcome us. They were a fine-looking 
pair of dogs. I opened the rear door of the car and 
Myrtle came forth. 

Now our hosts were true gentlemen of the South. 
After a look at Myrtle, they spoke earnestly of the 
weather and the crops and of how hard it was to get 
hold of good corn liquor. The crack shot from At- 
lanta became absorbed in assembling his gun. All in 
all, the moment passed off well. 

In due time we marched out over the fields, four 
guns in line. We had planned to separate into pairs 
when we reached wider country. This we never did. 
I do not like to shoot with more than one other gun. 
I wanted the crack shot to help me kill birds in- 
stantly and stone dead when Myrtle found them; 
but, in a surprisingly short time, the brothers showed 
little desire to leave us, despite their pair of dogs 
ranging splendidly through the cover. 

Myrtle, as we started, had run whining from one 
man to another for some moments. At last she 
stopped to stand and watch the other dogs quarter- 
ing out ahead. She turned and looked deliberately at, 
or rather through, each of the gunners, myself in- 



DOG UPON THE WATERS %$ 

eluded. Then with a last small whimper, she got to 
work. It became clearer and clearer from then on 
that the place to kill birds that day was in the vicinity 
of Myrtle. 

That miniature, misbegotten what-not found covey 
after covey and heaven knows how many singles, 
Her work was marred, however. When a bird fell, 
she would find it at once and pick it up. She would 
stand uncertain for a moment and whimper, then 
start with the bird in her mouth for the nearest man. 
Having visited all four of us, she would begin to 
move in a vague circle, whining and looking about. 
Once she dashed for a high black stump in a field, 
to return dejectedly with the bird still in her mouth. 

I blew my whistle at such times. She never seemed 
to hear it. I would go toward her, calling her name, 
and ordering her to "Bring it here!" She only re- 
treated from me, whimpering as I advanced. Get- 
ting to her at last, I would take hold of the bird and 
persuade her to let go of it. All this took time. It 
was also, to me, her legal owner, somewhat morti- 
fying. 

I shared my lunch with Myrtle. She accepted a 
sandwich, then withdrew a little from the rest of us, 
to stand looking off into the distance. Suddenly she 
was away like a shot. I looked in the direction she 



34 SPORTING DAYS 

was going and saw a Negro field hand working along 
the bottoms, gun in hand, looking for rabbits. I blew 
and blew my whistle. She rushed on. When close to 
the Negro, she stopped, looked at him, and came 
slowly back to where we sat. I rubbed her behind the 
ears and along the back. She submitted, gazing off 
into space. 

Later that afternoon a covey scattered in a narrow 
thicket along the bank of the river. The river was 
in flood a wide, tawny plain with hummocks of fast 
water in the middle and still reaches of backwater at 
its edges. 

Myrtle pointed a single within inches of the water. 
The bird, when flushed, swung out over the riven 
The deadly gun from Atlanta cracked. The bird came 
down in the backwater just at the edge of the cur- 
rent. Myrtle was'in the river swimming for the bird 
the moment it fell. She got to it quickly, but an eddy 
or the wind had carried it out into the current. As 
she turned to come back with the bird in her mouth, 
the force of the river took her, and downstream she 
went. 

There was a bend just there, curving away from 
our side. We four stood helpless on its outer rim and 
watched her work slowly shoreward, going down- 
stream ten feet for every foot she gained toward 



DOG UPON THE WATERS 35 

the backwater and safety. I remember yelling "Drop 
it, Myrt drop it 1" knowing that she could make a 
better fight without that wretched bird. She did not 
obey. She struggled on until she came at last to the 
backwater with the bird still in her mouth. 

We all breathed sighs of relief and watched her 
swim swiftly toward us when free from the drag of 
the current. "Good girl ! Bring it here 1" I called, and 
got out a cigarette with shaking fingers. I began to 
bask in exclamations I heard along the bank: "Hot 
damn! That's the baby I" And "Come on home with 
the bacon, gal 1" At least I was her owner. 

But trouble swiftly met that small swimmer. 
There were cat briers growing below her in the 
flooded ground. One of the longer of these through 
which she swam fastened in her collar the new col- 
lar I had bought her only the day before. Swim as 
she might, it held her fast. Her stroke became less 
smooth. She began to paw the water with her front 
feet splashing as she did so. 

My shooting coat, filled with shells, came off and 
in I went. No swimming, I found, was required. I 
was no more than up to my armpits in icy water 
when I reached Myrtle. For this I was duly thankful. 

Myrtle was showing fright and exhaustion by now. 
She was no longer swimming. She was dog-paddling 



36 SPORTING DAYS 

frantically to keep her head above water. The quail 
was still in her mouth. 

I disengaged the brier from her collar and carried 
her to shore. Then I sat down to empty my hunting 
boots. I thought I felt the rasp of a pink tongue on 
the back of my hand as I did so. I can't be sure, for 
I was pretty cold. 

The day was well along and my bedraggled state 
demanded the plantation house and a fire. We started 
toward both, hunting as we went. 

I was at the left end of the line. Myrtle stopped 
on point, out in front and to the right. It was evi- 
dently a single, since flushed birds had gone that 
way. I called, "Go in and kill it!" And stood to 
watch the shot. 

The bird fell at the report of the gun. Myrtle 
went into some brambles to retrieve. She emerged 
with the bird in her mouth. "Bring it here !" I heard 
from the man to whom it rightfully belonged. If 
Myrtle heard him, she gave no sign. Nor did she 
give that whimper of uncertainty that I had heard 
throughout the day, as she had stood with a recov- 
ered bird in her mouth. She came to me on a straight 
line, running eagerly, to lay the dead quail in my ex- 
tended palm. Her eyes had that look half pride in 
work well done, half love and faith and companion- 



DOG UPON THE WATERS 37 

ship which is characteristic of a shooting dog as a 
bird is brought to the master's hand. "Here it is, 
boss!" that look seemed to say. "It's yours. And I 
am yours to slave for you, to adore you, as long as 
I shall live." 

Although my teeth were chattering, I was warmed 
suddenly from within. 

Myrtle rode back to Atlanta that night, curled in 
my lap, a weary but contented little dog. 



The Diver Does His Stuff 




I BECAME AWARE THAT MY GALLERY HAD NOT 
DESERTED ME. 



THE DIVER DOES HIS STUFF 

Now that concrete roads beribbon the country in all 
directions and motorcars are filled with a smooth de- 
termination to sneak up to seventy while you tell 
your fishing pal the latest non-parlor story, the na- 
tives, along even the more remote trouting waters, 
regard a dry-fly angler, fully panoplied for the chase r 
with a lack of interest that amounts to complete 
apathy. In these later times the countryside has be- 
come aware that the first spring blossoms will bring 
a migration of such creatures to each wadable trout 
stream in the wake of the state hatchery fish truck; 
that, despite their appalling appearance, they are as 
harmless as the shitepoke and the teeter snipe whose 
haunts they invade, and that they will depart, as 
mysteriously as they came, with the last of the mos- 
i, ;es, leaving behind them only the raucous chuckle 
ae more persistent kingfisher to rise above the 
, le of the river. 

aere was a day, however alas, it will never 
41 



42 SPORTING DAYS 

come again when fish trucks were as unnecessary 
as they were unknown. In that delightful era chil- 
dren fled screaming into the schoolhouse, the cheeks 
of country maidens blanched with dread, farmers 
reached for the old double-barreled standing behind 
the door at the sight of a strange figure, apparently 
in the last stages of dropsy, shod in a pair of aver- 
age-sized canal boats, making ponderously for the 
nearest creek. 

Somewhat later, suspicion of a pair of animated 
elephantine waders and what-not changed to amuse- 
ment as the word went around that these were not 
demented, deep-sea divers stalking inland, but only 
honest citizens of somewhat larger communities "got 
up for fishinV* Later still, particularly among the 
younger males of the hinterland, derision gave place 
to a certain amount of curiosity as to how anybody 
rigged out like that conducted himself on a trout 
stream. 

It being well known that a pair of rubber boots, 
a pole, a line, a hook and some night-crawlers were 
all that were needed to secure an ample panful, why 
did anyone get into such duds and go swinging an 
elongated buggy-whip up and down-stream to catch 
trout? Was it just a city notion or was there some- 
thing in it? Maybe, with those funny-looking clothes 



THE DIVER DOES HIS STUFF 43 

and shoes and gadgets, you could catch bigger fish. 

In those days, one could be sure of a half-skepti- 
cal, wholly absorbed gallery if one fished a bit of 
water which allowed the boys of the neighborhood 
an uninterrupced view of the proceedings. Also, I 
must add, with a sigh, one could be reasonably 
certain of producing, for the edification of the spec- 
tators, the rise and capture of several fat, butter- 
yellow brownies or the less wary, olive-and-black 
scarlet-spotted brookies to be slipped, without too 
much ostentation, into one's creel. 

And now let me say that there are experiences 
in the life of every angler so tragic, so bitter, so 
filled with regret that for years and years recollec- 
tions of them will set him to tossing in his bed and 
muttering in his sleep. I propose herewith to record, 
as best I can, such an experience. I do so with pain 
and anguish. 

In a year long since past, along the lower stretches 
of a Sullivan County river, my fishing companion and 
I parked our car at the edge of the state road and 
slid with some difficulty down a shale embankment 
to the water's edge. We had read, not long since, La 
Branched The Dry Fly on Fast Water, and profited 
thereby. Mr. La Branche had not succeeded in mak- 



44 SPORTING DAYS 

ing purists of us, however. If they were rising, we 
fished upstream with the floating fly ; if no trout were 
breaking, we fished downstream with the sunken va- 
riety. Many years, on many trout streams, have not 
caused me to alter this procedure. 

We were, accordingly, fully accoutered with all 
the clothing and accessories for both wet and dry 
fishing. We wore waders and wading socks and 
shoes, of course. Our fishing jackets were cut to 
meet the tops of the waders, a hand's breadth or so 
below our armpits. Abbreviated as these garments 
were, their designer had still contrived to endow 
them with an unbelievable number of pockets. They 
contained front pockets, side pockets, back pockets, 
outer and inner pockets, pockets within pockets. 
Somehow we had discovered and managed to make 
use of them all. 

In consequence, from a point well above the waist 
down to our gargantuan wading shoes, we presented 
an appearance of alarming obesity. Thanks to fly 
boxes, leader boxes, an oilskin raincoat, pipe, to- 
bacco-pouch, etc., which stuffed our precious pockets 
to the bursting, we jutted and bulged from this 
point upward in an unexpected, not to say startling 
manner, until, at last, the whole was crowned with 
a disreputable hat that served at once as a head- 



THE DIVER DOES HIS STUFF 45 

gear and a sort of pincushion for variously colored 
used flies. 

Other details of the ensemble were fishing scis- 
sors, dangling on a string which went around the 
neck. A leather-bound bottle of fly oil with brush 
fastened to the breast of the jacket. A metal rod 
holder sewed to the bottom of same. There was, 
in addition, a 2O-inch creel, the size made necessary 
by the fact that we didn't want to bend the big one 
that we hoped and prayed, each time we entered a 
stream, would rise and be taken. 

To the creel was tied a heavy metal "priest" to 
put out of business the long-looked-for monster, to- 
gether with lesser fry which came our way in the 
meantime. Our nets small, easily handled affairs * 
were snapped to a ring sewed in the back of the 
jacket between the shoulder-blades. They were also 
fastened to the ring by a stout cord, lest they be 
dropped into some hurrying river when unsnapped 
and in action. 

As to my fishing companion of those days. He was 
noteworthy for two things : an extraordinary ability 
to take trout and an apparent lack of balance while 
doing so. This latter characteristic was accounted 
for by the fact that the intensity with which he fished 
caused him to forget all else, including where and 



46 SPORTING DAYS 

how he set his feet on slippery or rocky stream beds. 
As a result, he was apt to advance between casts in 
a series of alarming gyrations that, now and then, 
were the forerunners of appalling and complete im- 
mersions. 

I called him, in consequence, "The Pelican, or 
Great Diver," shortening his full title to "The 
Diver" on less formal occasions. As for him, he ad- 
dressed me by a wide variety of dubious given names, 
none of which was ever, by any chance, my own. 

Having arrived at the river's brim, dressed as 
above, on the day I am describing, we were con- 
fronted by a rush of foam-flecked water smoothing 
out as it became the green depths of a pool. The 
shadow of an iron bridge lay across this pool. Be- 
yond the bridge, on the far side of the stream, a small 
hamlet clung to a plateau from which rose abruptly 
a cloud-piercing, wooded hill. 

I should perhaps mention here that a somewhat 
bitter, though concealed, rivalry existed between The 
Diver and me as to whose creel would prove the 
heavier when night came on. It was our habit to make 
a show of giving the other fellow the best pool or 
rift, wish him all the luck in the world, and then 
sneak off, find better water if possible, and, as The 
Diver put it, "Try to make a sucker out of him." 



THE DIVER DOES HIS STUFF 47 

With the above precedent in mind, The Diver, 
on that far day, addressed me as follows: "Well, 
Oswald, pick out what you think is good above, or 
below, or this stretch here. Take your choice." 

Adhering to our formula, I promptly declined the 
offer. 

"I had a better day on the Broadhead than you 
did," I reminded him gently. "You take what you 
want." 

A faint cloud passed across The Diver's face. 

"You sure tied into 'em over there," he said with 
reluctant admiration. "But listen, Elmer, it was 
coming to you after what I did to you I mean 
after your tough luck up on the Ausable." The 
Diver's eyes roamed up and down the stream, 
noting its character and possibilities. "This is a 
swell pool, Mortimer, and that rift looks good. 
Suppose you take a crack at it here, and I'll go 
above and see what it's like up there." 

I had crowded an ordinary day's work into the 
morning, and had driven the car all the way up 
from New York that afternoon. The sun would not 
be long dropping behind the hills, I noted. It seemed 
best to start fishing at once and where I stood, rather 
than to go searching laboriously for more promising 
water. 



4 SPORTING DAYS 

"All right," I decided. "If it's all the same to you, 
I'll start in here." 

"Suits me, Egbert. I'm on my way." The Diver 
waved a courteous rod. "Hope you get 'em, Gus." 
He strode off up-stream. 

I took a coiled dry-fly leader from between the 
moist pads of a leader box and placed it for a more 
thorough soaking in a miniature bay at my feet. As 
I straightened up, a voice shrilled out above me. 

"Pete! Oh, Pete ILookit!" 

A boy's face was staring down upon me over the 
railing of the bridge. It was joined by another and 
another. Presently there were four young faces in a 
row, observing me with a mixture of scorn and 
amazement. 

"Lookit them pants and them shoes." 

"Them's to git in the creek with." 

"Must be figgerin' to git in up to his neck." 

There was a general suppressed titter. 

"Hello, boys," I called. 

"H'lo," said one. 

The rest said nothing. They simply continued to 
take in my bloated and bulging person in rapt silence. 

Suddenly the faces disappeared, and I heard high 
crescendos of mirth coming from somewhere above. 
I was greasing my line when the faces reappeared 



THE DIVER DOES HIS STUFF 49 

to watch the process with the same wondering atten- 
tion that previously they had bestowed upon me. 

They watched me finish my line-greasing and put 
the line-greaser back in my coat. They watched me 
tie on the leader and tie a dry fly to that. They 
watched me take the brush from the oil-bottle and 
carefully coat the fly. They watched me cleanse the 
leader of any possible oil or grease by drawing it 
through a cake of leader-soap. 

They watched all this in round-eyed silence save 
for an occasional breathless "Lookit." Now and then 
it was too much for them. The faces would dis- 
appear like one, and shrieks of laughter would come 
to me to mingle with the chuckle of the more rapid 
water at the top of the pool. 

At last, all being ready, I waded in. Conscious of 
the critical eyes staring down upon me, I must admit 
to shooting out an unnecessarily long line on my first 
cast and dropping that dry fly like a languid bit of 
thistledown well up the pool. I had elected to fish 
dry because I had seen the splash of a rising trout 
out of the tail of my eye while making my prepara- 
tions* Now, for the benefit of my gallery, I proceeded 
to give an exhibition of what I regarded as expert 
casting. 

I worked slowly up the pool, shooting out a long 



50 SPORTING DAYS 

dexterous line with hardly a ripple marking where 
it fell. There was no longer any laughter on the 
bridge. My rod-wielding was being accorded a close 
and, I think, respectful attention. 

But nothing came of it. I forgot the gallery in 
my efforts to raise a fish. I worked to the top of the 
pool, then on up into the rapid water, using shorter, 
less dwelling casts. A half hour passed, and I was 
still fishless. Then I saw The Diver execute a deft 
three-quarter turn-and-stagger just at the head of 
the rift. He was coming down-stream, fishing wet. 
Since the ridge above the hamlet had already taken 
a jagged bite out of the blood-red sun, it was time 
I followed a good example. 

In changing to a looped wet leader, with one tail 
fly and a dropper, I became aware that my gallery 
had not deserted me. They had kept me under ob- 
servation by following along the state road as I had 
worked up-stream. They seemed undaunted by my 
failure to produce results. Their attention was as 
swerveless as heretofore. Now and then I could see 
lips move, but the roar of the fast water in which 
I stood drowned their comments, whatever they 
might have been. 

These faithful followers were blotted out of ex- 
istence, so far as I was concerned, a moment later. 



THE DIVER DOES HIS STUFF 51 

On my second cast down-stream there rolled up from 
the very middle of a deep slick between two froth- 
rimmed boulders the biggest brown trout I had ever 
seen. His mouth opened like a cavern as he en- 
gulfed the dropper fly. 

Years have passed since then, as I have said, but 
I can still visualize that great head and the huge 
unhurried roll of him as he turned and went down 
with my Wickham's Fancy. How he contrived to 
seem leisurely about it in the press of that fast water 
is beyond me, but he seemed to dwell for seconds 
on the surface of that slick. It was as though he had 
risen in a pdhd. 

The whole thing had the unreality of a dream. 
I had fished a good stretch of water with a variety 
of dry flies without a sign of a rise. I had fished 
this particular slick not five minutes before, and then 
waded along its edge enough to put even a callow 
fingerling on his guard. The dropper fly was, to all 
intents and purposes, on the surface, and yet this 
wise old grandfather who had scorned the previous 
offerings I had floated over him had seen fit to come 
up and take it. Such is the nature of trout, and of 
such are woven the uncertainties, disappointments 
and unexpected rewards that go to form the in- 
imitable pattern of an angler's day on a trout stream. 



52 SPORTING DAYS 

I tightened instinctively, mentally bracing myself 
for the shocking violence of granddad when he felt 
the hook. Strange to say, his resentment was so mild 
as to be negligible. He simply sank unhurriedly down 
to the bottom to become as moveless as the two 
boulders that caused the slick in which he lay. 

For perhaps fifteen minutes there he stayed, quite 
oblivious to all the pressure I dared use, the light 
snell of that Wickham's Fancy and its No. 12 hook 
considered. Meanwhile the sun had definitely aban- 
doned Sullivan County, New York, for a 1 2-hour 
period, and the rushing water all about me was tak- 
ing on unbelievable lavenders and pinks and purples 
at which one could only strain one's bedazzled eyes. 
It was already a bad light in which to net even a 
1 2-incher and, so far as I could tell, granddad seemed 
prepared to continue resolutely doing nothing until 
midnight or beyond. 

In my extremity I thought of The Pelican, or 
Great Diver. I glanced upstream and saw him about 
a hundred yards above me, making his perilous way 
down the rift, casting as he came. I let out an old- 
fashioned hog-calling welkin-ringer, and he re- 
sponded with a banshee's top note signifying that he 
would be with me shortly. 

A lot of water ran not over the dam but between 



THE DIVER DOES HIS STUFF $3 

and past my legs before he at last came near enough 
for me to make myself heard above the splash-gur- 
gle-roar that made up the song of the rift. He was 
spattering casts to right and left of him between 
side-slips, skids and some steps from a chorus 
routine. 

"Quit that damcasting," I yelled, "and get here 
quick." 

"Whas-a-matter, Filbert?" he yelled back. "Are 
you snagged?" 

"Listen, fool, IVe got the God-awfullest trout on 
that you or I or anybody else ever saw. Hurry!" 

As I waited for him to cover the yards, which 
seemed like miles, to where I stood I saw my gal- 
lery, still in attendance, watching me from the road 
with a strained attention that showed their interest 
in the situation to be supreme. 

Another of their kind appeared on the bridge and 
observed the absorbed group on the state road. 

"First bat for one ole cat," he shrilled. 

The gallery remained entirely loyal to me and my 
affair of the moment. 

"Forget it," one of them screeched back. "This 
guy's hooked a terrible big fish." 

The newcomer hastily abandoned all thoughts of 



54 SPORTING DAYS 

light diversion. Emitting a wild rebel yell, followed 
by a series of Indian war-whoops, he galloped to the 
scene and became as immersed in watchful waiting 
as the rest. 

The Diver having arrived at my side, we now 
went into conference. It was decided that he should 
get below granddad and sneak up on him from the 
rear. He laid his rod on the bank and proceeded to 
execute this maneuver, net in hand, squinting down 
into the slick at the point where my rigid leader dis- 
appeared into the water. 

"Can you see him?" I yelled. 

"I can see something. It looks like a " 

The Diver never finished that sentence. In leaning 
forward and down in an effort to pierce the multi- 
colored surface with his gaze his equilibrium for- 
sook him. He waved both arms and the net rapidly 
in the air for an instant ere he executed a combina- 
tion jack-knife and full-twist into the middle of the 
slick. 

I am still of the opinion that a purple knob on his 
forehead which he later displayed was not, as he 
claimed, the result of a collision with a stone em- 
bedded in the river's bottom. I have ever maintained 
that either his head crashed into the broad and stub- 
born back of the indignant granddad, or, as I ex- 



THE DIVER DOES HIS STUFF 55 

plained to The Diver, "He may have slapped you 
with his tail." 

The moments immediately following The Diver's 
exhibition of his art were, like The Diver's waders, 
filled to overflowing. He floundered to his feet, but 
long before he was once more erect, net still in hand, 
I had seen the leader cut through the water as it 
passed up and around one of the boulders. The re- 
morseless strain on my rod was gone. 

Speechless, hopeless, undone, I stared mournfully 
at the emerging Diver. And then oh, joy! oh, rap- 
ture ! I felt the vibration along the rod that only 
a swimming fish imparts. I frantically stripped in 
slack. My heart surged as the rod tip bowed again 
toward the surface of the stream. 

"He's still on!" I yelled. "There just ahead of 
you. Net him 1" 

Once more The Diver peered dutifully into the 
slick with water from his hat brim running into his 
eyes. He passed a dripping sleeve across his face 
and peered again, then plunged his net below the sur- 
face. He brought it up with an eight-inch chub, fast 
to my tail fly, writhing in its folds. 

I stared stupidly at the bewildered Diver holding 
that pitiful minnow up for my inspection. There was 
a thunderous silence. At last he spoke. 



5& SPORTING DAYS 

"K-k-k-kidding me," he said as the temperature 
of trout-stream water in early May reached for his 
bones. "K-k-k-kidding me. Just a g-g-grade A louse." 

And now there arose, well above the noise of the 
rift, the most abandoned shrieks of laughter that I 
had ever heard. My gallery, no longer able to stand, 
were rolling in paroxysms on the state road. I have 
heard boys made helpless through the hysteria that 
seizes a class of youngsters after some hours of too- 
rigid schoolroom discipline; but that was nothing 
compared to what the appearance of that despised 
chub in The Diver's net did to those Sullivan County 
urchins. They took this to be the antagonist that had 
held me for twenty minutes in the rift and forced 
me to call wildly for aid. This was what all the 
clothes and gadgets and preparations at the bridge 
had led to an eight-inch chub. It all but slayed 
them. 

Retreating to the car, I showed The Diver the 
snapped snell of my dropper fly that had parted at 
granddad's first rush like a single strand from a fine- 
haired maiden. I explained to him that the chub must 
have taken the tail fly as it swung in the current at 
the stern of the stationary leviathan. At last he was 
disposed to admit that he had not been the victim 
of a foul and repulsive deception. 



THE DIVER DOES HIS STUFF 57 

"Didn't you see him at all?" I asked. 

"No, P-P-Percival. I saw something down there 
that 1-1-looked like a log, but it was as long as my 
1-1-leg." 

"That was him," I assured The Diver. "He was 
longer than your leg." 

As we drove sadly away from that fatal stretch 
of river, beginning now to reflect here and there the 
pale fires of the first stars of evening, my erstwhile 
gallery were still pawing weakly at one another and 
emitting exhausted cackles along the edge of the 
state road. 



My First Depression 




THE 



MY FIRST DEPRESSION 

HAVING lost, as the saying goes, "everything/' I 
have acquired a reputation for cheerfulness in the 
face of disaster that troubles me. I have been told 
that the way I take it is "simply marvelous." 

It has been so long since I have taken anything 
it has been, so monotonously, since 1929, a matter of 
having it taken away that the sentence is mislead- 
ing from its very beginning. However, let that pass. 
The main point is this : I have no urge to leap from 
the tower of the Empire State Building, or less 
spectacular if equally destructive heights, because 
I became, many years ago, completely immune to 
economic loss. I was engulfed at that time by a dis- 
aster so overwhelming, a catastrophe so numbing in 
its effect that the horror of our present depression, 
as indicated by the disappearance in to to of my 
tangible assets, leaves me comparatively unmoved. 

I relate the following facts, therefore, to avoid 
any further undeserved encomiums by friends and 

61 



62 SPORTING DAYS 

neighbors over what appears to be an admirable 
stoicism on my part, but which, in reality, is only the 
indifference of one who is, so to speak, beyond all 
suffering. 

The scene goes back to my earliest years of man- 
hood, or better perhaps, of lat* adolescence. At that 
time, I was, for some unaccountable reason, study- 
ing art. This fact has no significance. It does estab- 
lish a locale namely, Cincinnati, Ohio and brings 
out the point that I was dependent on an allowance 
from home which paid my board, tuition at the art 
school and left me about twenty dollars each month 
to spend as I saw fit. 

Cincinnati is directly across the Ohio River from 
Covington, Kentucky, and this is important, because 
in those dim, dead, delirious days, one could not 
fight chickens in Ohio without the possibility of 
annoying activity by lurking minions of the law, 
whereas, within the more sportive borders of the 
blue-grass state just to the south, one could. 

I cannot recall what moved me to journey across 
the bridge leading from Cincinnati to Covington to 
witness my first cock fight. I do know that I was so 
stirred, so thrilled by what I saw, that Saturday 
nights thereafter were apt to find me making the 
pilgrimage to the cockpit in Covington with the one 



MY FIRST DEPRESSION 63 

dollar necessary for admittance somehow safe in my 
pocket. 

There is now no single spot in this land of the free 
and the home of the brave where game cocks may be 
allowed to slake their thirst for battle. The situation 
contains a statutory paradox. It is largely the result 
of pressure upon our legislators by those who seek 
to prevent cruelty to animals. Cruelty, if you please ! 
Worthy gentlemen, sympathetic ladies ! A game cock 
embraces combat with the ardor and delight of a 
girl at her first ball. In depriving this gallant fellow 
of his fisticuffs, you have undone him. His crow has 
lost its note of joyous challenge. The bright, wild 
fierceness of his eye is dimmed. He was a happy 
warrior who might hope to die splendidly before 
admiring thousands. He is now a rooster who has 
his head whacked off in some unspeakable back yard, 
and is then stuck in a pot. 

I have digressed. We must return to Cincinnati 
and youthful indiscretions. A certain, long-drawn- 
out, rather mournful, fellow art student called 
Reedy by his intimates was, at that time, the com- 
panion of my joys and sorrows. Whither I went, 
there went Reedy. What he saw in me I do not 
know. I was attracted to him and valued his presence 
chiefly because he had been endowed with the most 



64 SPORTING DAYS 

amazing Adam's apple that my fascinated gaze has 
ever dwelt upon. 

One never, I remember, looked into Reedy's 
countenance during a pertinent conversation; one 
glued his eye to the telltale Adam's apple, thus 
probing to the bottom of his soul. If Reedy was un- 
moved, the Adam's apple remained as steadfast as 
an ancient landmark; if he were vaguely disturbed 
or slightly interested, it gave a premonitory quiver. 
But in moments of stress, when the inner man was 
racked by emotion, Reedy's Adam's apple slid up 
and down like the hand of a trombone player during 
a passage requiring the extremes of virtuosity from 
that instrument. 

Reedy did not accompany me on amorous adven- 
tures. The explanation is simple. I once and only 
once took him to call on twin sisters whose pul- 
chritude was proclaimed by the entire male popula- 
tion of East Walnut Hills. As we departed later 
that evening, the twin other than my own took me 
feverishly aside and begged that I never bring "that 
boy" there again. She explained that she had a rag- 
ing headache, due to she hesitated, found her 
word, "eyestrain." 

Be that as it may, Reedy, without noticeable en- 
thusiasm, followed me cautiously into this new world 



MY FIRST DEPRESSION 65 

gaffs and game cocks at a primary cost of one 
lar a week. These disbursements would not of 
mselves have been insupportable, but worse was 
Follow. It is part of the ritual of cockfighting that 
; backs one's choice of birds in coin of the realm. 
STow, Reedy and I had no reasonable choice in 

matter of game cocks. We knew absolutely 
hing about them. And yet up to the last dime 

our resources that dime being irrevocably 
Igeted for car fare we were carried away by 

excitement of the rapid betting that preceded 
h fight; and selecting one of the birds about to 
joined in combat, because we liked his looks or 
Dr, or the manner or face of his handler, we 
jered prayerfully. 

The result was inevitable. One must be in the 
>w, to use the vernacular of the pit, before 
>ing to profit at a cocking main. Reedy and I 
r ays took our last dime sadly away from the 
kpit and took the street car back to Cincinnati, 
ing lost between us anywhere from two to six 
lars. 

3ame a night, however, when the big idea 
raed. It held forth a promise of better things, 
vas preceded by an exhibition, brief as the draw- 

of one's breath, which left those present secure 



66 SPORTING DAYS 

in the knowledge that providence had seen fit to 
produce at last, from a mere egg, a Juggernaut, a 
tornado, an utterly destructive force. 

The occasion was the testing and selecting of 
Ohio birds that were to be fought in an interstate 
main the following week against the best game cocks 
of Kentucky. There appeared sometime during the 
evening a shambling old man, a well-known breeder 
and handler, who held in his arms a heeled stag 
i. e., young cock, with gaffs on that he was about 
to pit. Now, handlers, as a rule, have nothing what- 
ever to say. At this point, however, the old man 
spoke up. He addressed the assemblage at large, 
"Gents," he said, u this Blue Pyle stag that I'm goin' 
to put down ain't never been pitted before. Watch 
him!" 

It will now be necessary for me to describe briefly 
the orthodox method pursued by game cocks when 
entering into battle. A pair of birds are put down 
by their respective handlers at opposite sides of the 
pit. Their fierce, golden eyes have already fastened 
upon each other. As they find themselves free and 
on their feet, they begin a rather stately, seemingly 
cautious, approach to the center of the pit, not front 
to front but at an angle which suggests that they 
are walking and will come together sideways. When 



MY FIRST DEPRESSION 67 

separated at last by only a foot or so, they whirl 
together and go into the air breast to breast, each 
shuffling as the rapid striking with their legs is 
called at the body of the other. 

The unexpected, rather astonishing words of his 
handler that night quite naturally focused the 
attention of all of us on the small Blue Pyle he held 
in his arms. We had time to notice that, as he was 
being lowered to the floor of the pit, this young 
cock's legs began to move in a sort of pawing mo- 
tion. Whether he was already mentally on his way 
or was simply feeling for the ground with his feet, 
I do not know. At any rate, when dropped the last 
few inches by his handler, he lit running and was 
across the pit like a flash. When about three feet 
from the other cock, he brought his wings into play 
and left the ground. Rising like a plane taking off, 
he crashed into his unprepared adversary and bore 
him completely over and back against the pit wall, 
his shuffle sounding like the roll of a muffled drum 
as his gaffs found the head and neck of the bird 
beneath him. The old man walked across the pit and 
picked him up. He crowed once and settled down 
quietly in his handler's arms. The other cock lay 
moveless dead ten times over dead even as he 
was being flung back against the pit wall. 



68 SPORTING DAYS 

There followed, I remember, an almost complete 
silence. In it the old man spoke up. He said, "Boys, 
in case you think that was a fluke, I won't unheel 
him. We'll just take on any four-pound-six stag 
that's here tonight give or take two ounces." 

Although I have never before or since seen a bird 
pitted twice in the same night, the old man waited 
with the Blue Pyle until a suitable adversary was 
heeled and brought in, whereupon we witnessed the 
identical drama Sudden Death of an Orthodox 
Game Cock by a D'Artagnan of the Gaffs that we 
had viewed a few moments before. Its author again 
crowed, once, when his brief masterpiece was over. 

Tumult arose around that cockpit. The assemblage 
yelled, swore, stamped and beat one another on the 
back. Glancing at Reedy, I took the accomplishments 
of his Adam's apple to be a sign of the emotion of 
the moment shared by all. I was presently un- 
deceived. Reedy, it seemed, had a plan. He confided 
it to me when the noise had subsided. It was this: 
Death and destruction, in the form of the Blue Pyle, 
would undoubtedly appear in the main against Ken- 
tucky the following week. He proposed that we raise, 
during the next seven days, "a lot of money," as he 
put it, and then wager the whole magnificent sum 
on this one and only certainty among fighting cocks 



MY FIRST DEPRESSION 69 

"and not," he added, "piddle away so much as a 
nickel on anything else." 

My acceptance of Reedy's suggestion, though 
brief, was enthusiastic. I said, as I remember, "Kid, 
you're on!" 

There followed a week of financial activities for 
Reedy and me. It was, however, not without its 
dreams. We saw ourselves, after Saturday night, 
affluent beyond our heretofore wildest hopes. Sur- 
feited, so to speak, with riches. The getting together 
of "a lot of money" called for and received Her- 
culean efforts. We borrowed right and left, promis- 
ing on our sacred honors to make restitution the 
following Sunday. We pawned our overcoats, our 
watches, a pair of silver-backed hairbrushes 
Reedy's a pair of chased gold cuff links mine 
two leather suitcases, a mandolin, a guitar, our 
evening clothes and every suit we possessed except 
the ones on our respective backs. 

When we made our way to the cockpit in Coving- 
ton on Saturday night, we had one hundred dollars, 
which I was carrying in a roll in my left hand, the 
hand being inserted deep in a trousers pocket. 
"Don't," Reedy instructed me, "take your hand out 
of that pocket till the time comes." 

I nodded dumbly. 



70 SPORTING DAYS 

What followed was largely the result of a trivial 
detail. We happened to take seats on the Kentucky 
side of the pit and found ourselves beside an elderly, 
soft-spoken Kentuckian, who greeted us pleasantly 
with "Howdy, boys!" and presently began to share 
with us his boundless knowledge of cocks and cock- 
fighting. He had been a breeder of game birds in his 
earlier days, and had followed cockfighting, so he 
told us, for more than forty years. He knew every 
handler from Kentucky intimately. He knew every 
bird that Kentucky put down that night, and what 
might be expected of him. His astoundingly correct 
prophecies as to the probable outcome of various 
fights left us dazed. He would say, for example, 
"Now, that Black Breasted Red there is one of Newt 
Chamberlain's birds over near Paris, They're not 
flashy fighters, but they're cutters. They kin lay on 
their backs and cut a cock to pieces above 'em. That 
there stag Newt's putting down is mighty likely to 
win." Whereupon Reedy and I watched a spectacu- 
lar Ohio cockerel shuffle all over the Black Breasted 
Red, seemingly outclassing him. As the fight wore 
on, however, Ohio became steadily less brilliant. He 
grew slower and slower. At last he began the telltale 
rattle in his throat that indicates deep distress. Pres- 
ently he laid him down and died. 



MY FIRST DEPRESSION 71 

"Thought so," said our friend softly. 

Reedy and I exchanged awed glances. 

"That's a Henny-Aztec cross of Bud Schermer's 
going down now," spake the oracle presently. "Don't 
like 'em. All fireworks and no punch. 'Spect he'll be 
a sick chicken pretty soon." 

He was very ! 

About many battles our friend ventured no opinion 
as to the outcome. "Well, I wouldn't know tough 
fight," he'd say, shaking his head. But when for some 
inscrutable reason he thought a bird "ought to win" 
or was "likely to lose," that bird somehow pro- 
ceeded to do so. 

Thus the night wore en with my hand still firmly 
clasped about our hundred dollars. 

At last the oracle leaned forward in his seat, ob- 
serving with lighted eyes a cock that had just been 
brought in. He said suddenly, "Boys, do you ever 
bet?" 

We admitted that upon occasion we had been 
known to do so. 

"Well," said the Kentuckian, his eyes still on the 
gray bird nestling in his handler's arms, "that's one 
of Purcell's Dominicks. They're the best strain of 
birds in Kentucky. They're the best strain of birds 
in the world. They come out of the egg knowin' how 



72 SPORTING DAYS 

to write their names with a pair of gaffs, and they're 
dead game. They kin lay uncoupled on the floor and 
take a beak holt and kill a cock. I've seen 'em do it. 
This'll be next to the best bird fought here tonight. 
The best one is his full brother. He's coming on 
later. Boys, I don't want to talk you into nothin', 
but I'd advise you to bet a piece of money on that 
Dominick." 

I half withdrew the hundred dollars from my 
pocket and looked at Reedy. 

The Adam's apple remained steadfast. His "You 
know what we said" was unnecessary. 

"But listen," I pleaded, "it isn't as though we're 
betting the way we used to. He hasn't been wrong 
yet, has he?" 

"Not yet," said Reedy. 

"Then why should he be wrong now?" 

"I dunno. But I gotta get back my clothes and my 
mandolin and my hair-brushes. I can't take chances." 

"But don't you see," I urged, "we could bet the 
whole two hundred dollars on you know what." 

"Too late," said Reedy. "There they go!" 

And there, indeed, they went. Or rather- the an- 
tagonist of the Purcell Dominick went somewhere. 
He went straight to whatever place is assigned in 



MY FIRST DEPRESSION 73 

the hereafter to good game roosters who die trying. 
"Yep," said our mentor, "they'll do it every 



time." 



"Now I hope you're satisfied," I told Reedy. 

An hour of just cockfighting went by while we 
waited for our big moment, our great reward. The 
hundred dollars was almost pulpy in my sweating 
palm. At last a gray bird appeared in the pit on the 
arm of his handler. He had the head of a silver 
snake, with golden, fiercely gleaming eyes below a 
thin blood-red ribbon of comb. 

"Boys," said the Kentuckian, "here's the other 
Purcell Dominick I was speaking about. The cock 
don't live that can kill him." 

"Reedy!" I pleaded in agony. "Reedy!" 

I got the signal I wanted from Reedy's Adam's 
apple and had turned to the pit before I heard his 
husky "All right!" in confirmation. 

I raised my right hand in the teeth of the Ohio 
side and called out, "One hundred dollars on Ken- 
tucky!" 

I was astonished by a forest of waving arms that 
grew instantly where there had been none. I heard 
in a sort of daze a swelling chorus, "I gotcha, bud!" 
"I gotcha, beau!" "I gotcha, fella!" A stocky, red- 
faced man pointed a stumpy finger at me to help 



74 SPORTING DAYS 

fasten my eyes on his. "Listen, kid! I gotcha!' 5 Con- 
fused by so many waving arms, deafened by the sud- 
den clamor, hypnotized by that urgent, stumpy 
finger, I nodded to the red-faced man a confirmation 
of our wager. 

And then unspeakable horror overwhelmed me, 
for there strolled into the pit the same shambling 
old man of a week before, and on his arm was the 
Blue Pyle, the steel gaffs on his long, slender legs 
showing clean and bright against the dark of the 
handler's coat. 

I can close my eyes and see those gleaming, needle- 
pointed gaffs today. It was as though they were 
about to penetrate my own vitals, or had already 
done so, for I was the victim of a sudden all-gone 
feeling in the stomach and I felt cold sweat break 
out on my forehead. I emitted a groan of anguish. 

The old Kentuckian leaned forward and stared 
into my face. 

"What's the matter, son," he asked, "are you 
sick?" 

I said, "Oh, gosh!" and became speechless. 

I heard a white-faced Reedy explaining in gasps : 
"You see, mister we brought a lot of money over 
here to bet on that chicken. Oh, a lot of money, 



MY FIRST DEPRESSION 75 

mister and he's awful! You don't know. He's 
awful!" 

And then a feeble hope stirred somewhere within 
me, for the oracle from Kentucky gave a reassuring 
chuckle. 

"Why, boys," he said, "you ain't got a thing to 
worry about. That Dominick '11 go 'round that Blue 
Pyle like a cooper round a barrel. He'll just natur- 
ally whip hell out of him. Wait and see!" 

So we waited. And never have moments seemed 
so like leaden hours as in that brief interval before 
the handlers stepped to opposite sides of the pit to 
put the two birds down. 

As I look back on it, I can feel thankful for one 
thing. We were not kept long in suspense as to the 
result. I feel certain that my pounding heart could 
not have stood a desperate encounter between those 
two in which the God of battle favored first one 
and then the other. 

There is, therefore, some consolation in the fact 
that the Dominick was destroyed as instantly, as 
completely as though struck by a bolt from the blue. 
D'Artagnan, the unorthodox, again lit running, 
again flashed across the pit, again shot planelike into 
the air to find a dead cock between his heels when 
he landed. He then crowed once. 



76 SPORTING DAYS 

I am a mere author. I am no matchless word 
painter, ready to perform wizardries in hyperbole, 
simile and metaphor. I shall, therefore, not attempt 
to describe the action, following that shrill, tri- 
umphant crow, of Reedy 's Adam's apple. 



Old Joe 




POOK DEVOTED A MOMENT TO SCRATCHING HIS 
KINKY GRAY DOME. 



OLD JOE 

JAY NORTON WITHERSPOON was, until recently, 
what I shall call a synthetic sportsman. A resi- 
dent of Westchester County, New York, his gun 
room was at once the envy and despair of those who 
were allowed to behold its treasures. Within its cabi- 
nets were dully gleaming rows of walnut stocks fas- 
tened cunningly to expertly bored shotgun barrels of 
various makes, lengths and gauges. If you cared to 
do so, you could take up a gorgeous weapon, here 
and there, snap it to your shoulder and swing it from 
right to left or vice versa with Jay Norton's full con- 
sent and approval. 

One noticed, however, that the Witherspoon back 
premises contained only a greenhouse and an impres- 
sive three-car garage. There were no kennels, with 
runways, in which fretful pointers or setters mut- 
tered maledictions over their inactivity and cursed 
the aching void that engulfed them between seasons. 

This was because Jay Norton's scheme of life 

79 



8o SPORTING DAYS 

made such querulous dependents unnecessary. He 
had begun his shooting at the traps, had then "gone 
in n for skeet and later had shared, with other clay- 
bird enthusiasts, a determination, cost what it might, 
to have "the real thing." They had formed a club, 
erected a pretentious dub house on a few thousand 
acres of field and woodland and had imported an 
English gamekeeper, with several assistants. At this 
club, bird dogs were maintained to locate released 
pheasants, and hungry hand-reared mallards were 
flown, over waiting guns en route to the shores of a 
corn-baited lake. 

Strings of dead pheasants and equally dead ducks 
festooned the club game-room, in consequence. It was 
apparent that Jay Norton, with other fortunate club 
members, was simply wallowing in the real thing. 
What more could any man desire ? 

Then came a time when the absence of Jay Nor- 
ton was to be noted at all club shoots hidden-trap, 
skeet, pheasant or the gluttonous corn-fed mallard, 
and this was not all. His disturbed fellow members 
began to fear that he had forsworn them completely 
in favor of a strange association, not to say close 
companionship, with one Pook Roberts a person of 
uncertain antecedence and of a rich chocolate hue. 

Rumor had it that, morning after morning, the 



OLD JOE 8 1 

Witherspoon limousine could be observed rushing 
along the roads of the vicinity, in various and sundry 
directions, and always that impeccable car contained 
its equally impeccable owner and the conversely dis- 
reputable Pook. It became a growing wonder. For a 
time it supplanted the inanities of "The More Abun- 
dant Life" as the principal topic of conversation 
wherever the elite of Westchester County foregath- 
ered. 

Overhearing several of these discussions, I under- 
took to solve the mystery, in a quiet way, and have, 
I believe, succeeded in doing so. The key to the 
riddle was an hour's talk with Jay Norton himself. 
I began it by mentioning the mild furor that his aban- 
donment of the shooting club had aroused among the 
members. 

"Don't I know?" he said. "They've been poking 
and prying at me for a month. Well, it won't get 'em 
a thing. Let 'em kill half-tame pheasants and barn- 
yard puddle ducks and not bother me." 

"What about this colored man you seem to be pal- 
ing with these days?" I probed gently. "What's the 
idea?" 

"Huh I" snorted Jay Norton. "The damned old 
buzzard 1" Whereupon he proceeded to disclose the 
chains that bound him to the humble, ingenuous- 



82 SPORTING DAYS 

seeming Pook. I shall reveal them, link by link, quot- 
ing the victim only now and then. 

On a fatal day, during the preceding shooting sea- 
son, Jay Norton, it seemed, had been invited into the 
coverts of Morris County, New Jersey, by a business 
acquaintance in New York, and there had come 
under the insidious spell of the North American 
woodcock, or timberdoodle. I say "spell," fully 
realizing that it fails, pitifully, to indicate the true 
character of the feverish malady that inflicts certain 
unfortunates when this long-billed pop-eyed visitor 
drops out of the moonlit sky into the winking sihor 
of hoar-frosted grasses, to exhume worms from, and 
sketch whitewash patterns upon, the loamy floor of 
a local thicket. 

"Spell," somehow suggests quietness, lassitude, 
dreamy inertia. Far from quiet, far from inert, are 
those who dash from one piece of cover to the next, 
to fight through undergrowth and peer through flam- 
ing curtains of autumn leaves in the hope of glimps- 
ing a flicker of tan-and-sepia at which to point a gun 
and press a trigger as an elusive timberdoodle flut- 
ters up in unpremeditated flight. 

What is the peculiar fascination of this bird for 
the rapt gunner who pursues him in preference to 
any other game bird? I do not know. As to woodcock 



OLD JOE 83 

shooting, I can either take it or let it alone. Not so 
the true addict. He will neglect wife, children and 
his means of livelihood in satisfying his craving to 
pursue and shoot at this flitting, feathered will-o'- 
the-wisp of birch and alder thickets. 

All this must be borne in mind in considering the 
case of Jay Norton. He had contracted woodcock- 
itus, if I may call it such, in its most virulent form. 
That one day in Morris County coverts had been 
enough. The man was undone! 

It must also be noted that his companion on that 
never-to-be-forgotten day had been the possessor of 
a woodcock dog whose performance warmed the 
cockles of one's heart like a noggin of vintage Bur- 
gundy. He was a perfect bird dog who slipped 
through the cover as a yacht cleaves the waves and 
found and pointed woodcock until Jay Norton had 
shot away two boxes of shells and the shadows of 
evening interrupted the proceedings. 

To show that the man went suddenly and com- 
pletely mad, it is only necessary to say that he tried 
to buy the dog, then and there. The astonished 
owner, looking at Jay Norton more in pity than in 
anger, had led him gently and with soothing words 
to the automobile and had driven him swiftly home- 
ward. 



84 SPORTING DAYS 

"We'll let it pass," he told the mortified Jay 
Norton. "You got over-excited." 

Jay Norton's thoughts, through the following 
winter and summer, were largely devoted to the 
new-found ecstasy that had come into his life. In a 
practical way he sought out a certain game warden 
residing in White Plains and persuaded the minion 
of the law to accompany him on numerous tours of 
the surrounding country during which the warden 
pointed out various pieces of woodcock cover and 
Jay Norton drew maps. 

As the shooting season approached the all-impor- 
tant question of a dog grew more and more pressing. 
Jay Norton had discovered, to his dismay, that the 
proverbial hen's tooth was a fairly abundant article 
of commerce compared to a really good woodcock 
dog. "You hear of one, every now and then," an 
honest gun-dog dealer informed him, "but try and 
buy him." Alas, Jay Norton had already attempted 
to do so. He shuddered at the recollection. 

Once again, however, the patient game warden 
came to the rescue. He disclosed the fact that, about 
six miles out from Scarsdale, on a certain highway, 
you made a left-hand turn at a schoolhouse, turned 
left again at a woods road just beyond a red barn, 
followed the woods road for about half a mile and 



OLD JOE 85 

thus came to a shack standing in a small clearing, 
surrounded by swamp land and thickets. This shack, 
with an acre or so of clearing, would prove to be the 
domain of Pook Roberts, who, the warden assured 
Jay Norton, hunted woodcock, kept a dog or two 
and would sell anything. 

Following directions carefully, Jay Norton suc- 
ceeded in coming upon an elderly colored citizen im- 
mediately in the rear of the designated shack. With 
his arm encircling a tin wash-basin of cracked corn, 
he was scattering its contents upon the ground while 
emitting a steady "chuck, chuck, chuck" at a rapidly 
approaching circle of nondescript hens. On the 
warped boards of the rear porch lay a dog. He was 
a sort of brickish color, according to Jay Norton, 
splotched here and there with dirty white. One would 
have called him a setter, no doubt, with perhaps a 
trace of farm shepherd. Jay Norton, eyeing this 
specimen doubtfully, addressed the earnest chicken- 
feeder. 

"Are you Pook Roberts?" 

"Yes-suh. Chuck, chuck, chuck, chuck I" 

"My name is Witherspoon." 

"Yes-suh, I know who you is." 

"I'm looking for a good woodcock dog." 

"Yes-suh. Chuck, chuck, chuck, chuclcl" 



86 SPORTING DAYS 

"I heard you might have one." 

Pook searched the wash basin with a black paw 
for the last of the cracked corn, went to the paint- 
less ramshackle back porch, hung the wash basin on 
a nail and opened the rear door of the shack. 

"Hyar, Lady. Hyar, Lady," he called. 

Out of that forlorn doorway stalked a creature 
that made Jay Norton catch his breath. It was, he 
admitted, the best-looking setter bitch that his 
amazed eyes had ever beheld "a picture setter" 
that stood with a proud head and a slowly waving 
plume of a tail, to favor Jay Norton with a queen- 
like stare. 

"Is is she a woodcock dog?" he managed to 
ask. 

Pook emitted a prolonged chuckle. 

"Man, man!" he said. 

"Do you want to sell her?" 

"Sell her!" echoed Pook in a tone of grieved as- 
tonishment. "Lawd, no !" 

There it was again, thought Jay Norton. No buy- 
ing the good ones I 

"Have you got any more?" he asked, despond- 
ently. No other dog could possibly interest him, he 
felt, with that statuesque figure still filling his eye. 

"Jus' ole Joe." 



OLD JOE 87 

"What's he like?" 

Pook chuckled again. "Shuh, a man like you 
wouldn't have ole Joe aroun'." 

"Could I see him?" 

"He's layin' right befo' yo' eyes," said Pook, in- 
dicating the hopeless near-setter still devoting him- 
self to twitching dream-filled slumber, broken, now 
and then, by the pursuit of the ubiquitous flea. 

Jay Norton gave the dog a brief glance, then 
dropped his hand on the head of the noble bitch who 
had strolled to the edge of the porch. Was there, 
he pondered, any possible argument that would in- 
duce a man, black or white, millionaire or pauper, 
to part with such as she ? He decided there was not. 

"Well," he sighed, "if you won't sell this one, I 
might as well be going." 

"It looks like it," agreed Pook. "It looks like no 
man in his right mind would want to give up what 
it would take to separate me fum Lady." 

Jay Norton, who was turning to leave, was sud- 
denly nailed to the spot. 

"How much?" 

The meeting came to order and got down to busi- 
ness. As a result of its activities it was agreed that 
Jay Norton should arrive at his present whereabouts 
on the first morning of woodcock season and, after a 



88 SPORTING DAYS 

day's hunt over Lady, should, if she proved up to 
Pook's veiled hints, bear her home with him, to have 
and to hold, for better or for worse, till death should 
them part, leaving behind him, in her stead, the sum 
of $250. 

Jay Norton was to be congratulated, I think, over 
the clause in the contract that assured his seeing the 
bitch work before the money changed hands. It 
proved this much, at any rate : her beauty had not 
entirely robbed him of what some of his associates 
claim is an over-cautiousness in fiscal matters. 

"I feel right sad," mourned Pook. "I sho' is goin' 
to miss castin' my eyes ovah that Lady." 

"She hasn't shown me what she can do on birds 
yet," Jay Norton reminded him. 

This time Pook allowed himself a high cackle of 
laughter. 

"Man, man, if you don't kill yo'self the limit by 
noon, you go on home and leave her be." 

That night Jay Norton's dreams, he confessed to 
me, were filled with visions of the wonder bitch 
pointing again and again, somewhere in his safely 
mapped woodcock covers, while he shot in the grand 
manner that one might expect from the owner of 
such a creature. 

On the morning of the opening day he presented 



OLD JOE 89 

himself, eagerly, at Pook's abode. Presently they set 
forth, accompanied by Lady and Jay Norton 
noticed the repulsive inhabitant of the back porch. 

"The other dog is coming along," he informed 
Pook. 

"He is, sho' enough," said Pook, with a start. 
"Well, it's jus' ole Joe. He won't git in the way." 
Whereupon he plunged abruptly into an all but im- 
penetrable alder thicket some hundred yards or so 
in the rear of the shack. 

It was, Jay Norton affirmed, about the thickest 
piece of cover he had ever been in. To make matters 
worse, the ancient negro, who had hobbled creakingly 
across the small opening to its edge, now developed 
an agility that was surprising. Do what he could, Jay 
Norton could not hold himself in line with the sud- 
denly rejuvenated Pook as he slid, in eel-like fashion, 
through the crowding mass of alders. Always Pook 
and the dogs were ahead, somewhere, just out of 
sight of the sweating, anxious Jay Norton, At last he 
heard Pook's voice raised in abrupt command. 

"You, Lady, careful now! Whoah, I say!" 

Jay Norton, working along as best he could 
through the obscuring riot of alders, received an ex- 
hilarating bit of information a moment later. 



90 SPORTING DAYS 

"Point, Mistah Withaspoon. Right ovah hyar, 
suh. Looks like she's got a woodcock." 

Jay Norton fought his way toward the sound of 
the voice and came upon Pook. Directly ahead of 
him stood Lady in a soul-stirring pose. He was not, 
he swears, conscious of the presence of the other 
dog. He saw only the glorious bitch, stiff as a ram- 
rod, and the waiting Pook. 

A woodcock twittered up. Jay Norton fired. So, 
an instant later, did Pook, 

"Lady, fetch! Lady, fetch!" Jay Norton heard. 
The bitch swam forward like a swan into a mass 
of undergrowth, to reappear with the dead bird 
which she dropped, with elegance, into Pook's out- 
stretched palm. And that, as Jay Norton put it, was 
that. 

They proceeded, without leaving the fastnesses of 
that alder thicket there seemed to be miles of it 
to kill the limit. Old Joe, as Pook had promised, did 
not, at any time, "get in the way." Only once did 
Jay Norton become aware that he had any interest 
whatsoever in woodcock. Having struggled to Pook's 
side upon one of his declarations of "Point, Mistah 
Withaspoon," he found Joe's nose slightly ahead of 
Lady's. 

"You, Joe!" said Pook, reproachfully. "What 



OLD JOE 91 

you doin'? Doan' you lemme ketch you tryin' to 
steal her point that-a-way. Back whar you belong!" 

Jay Norton was faintly astonished to observe the 
shabby setter slink, apologetically, to the rear. 

By eleven o'clock that morning it was all over. 
The Witherspoon limousine was making its way, re- 
gardless of possible scratches on its satiny mudguards 
and body, out the woods road toward the state 
highway. On the back seat of the car Lady, the wood- 
cock queen, posed in all her grandeur. 

Pook had been left counting, for the third time, a 
number of bills whose total, he was making certain, 
was the sum of $250. Old Joe slept peacefully in a 
patch of sunlight on the weathered boards of the 
back porch* 

Three days later the selfsame limousine re- 
appeared in that woods road, heading, even more 
recklessly, toward the former home of the magnifi- 
cent Lady, who again was gracing the rear seat. In 
explanation I shall quote Jay Norton verbatim. 

U I hunted her for two days," he told me, "and 
she pointed stink-birds, mud-turtles, meadow-larks, 
rabbits, squirrel tracks, stray cats, snakes every- 
thing but woodcock. On top of that, she must have 
pointed five hundred times at nothing. She'd sooner 
point than eat. She fancied herself doing it. She 



92 SPORTING DAYS 

thought it made her look nice. And by God, it didn't 
mean a thing ! Two hundred and fifty smackers and it 
didn't mean a thing! He'd put it over on me in that 
damned alder patch. It came to me when I found 
out what a phony she was. 

"This Joe was hell on wheels better than the 
Jersey dog and he understood every word the old 
nigger sajd. When he found a woodcock, that female 
four-flusher came up and backed or false-pointed or 
something, and that old black so-and-so had Joe slide 
out of the picture so it looked good when I got there. 
If we killed the bird, he let her retrieve. She'd do 
that, all right. I'd simply paid two-fifty for a re- 



triever." 



To return abruptly to the scene of action: Jay 
Norton piled from the car and confronted Pook. 

"You sold me the wrong dog," he declared. "I 
want the other onel" 

"Shuhl" said Pook. "Doan 5 tell me you want ole 
Joe!" 

Jay Norton made it clear that Joe was exactly 
what he did want and that he proposed to get him. 

"Here's your bitch," he said. "We'll just ex- 
change." 

Pook devoted a moment to scratching his kinky 
gray dome. 



OLD JOE 93 

"Well, sub, Mistah Withaspoon," said he at last. 
"I aim to do right by everybody, but a man's got to 
think about hisself some too. You bought one dog 
an' paid the money, an' hyar you is talkin' about an- 
other. Ole Joe ain't Lady egzactly. He ain't got the 
style. Lots of folks might kind of look down on ole 
Joe. But he suits me, I knows his ways, an' he knows 
mine. I don't rightly see how I could let him go." 

Once more business matters absorbed the meeting. 
As a result, Jay Norton left Lady and a hundred dol- 
lars and again drove away. This time he told him- 
self that, at a price, he had secured the real thing, 
for old Joe was crouching uneasily just behind him 
amid the too-luxurious appointments of the speed- 
ing limousine. 

Woodcock shooting, in Westchester and sun 
rounding counties, is largely a matter of working a 
small piece of cover and then going on to another. 
Jay Norton drove, with an eye on his map, to the 
nearest bit of woodcock ground next morning. Old 
Joe, still abashed by the splendors of the limousine, 
slunk from its interior, at command, and promptly 
found a woodcock, which Jay Norton missed. 

The bird left for parts unknown; and since he 
proved to be the sole member of his species in that 
particular cover, Jay Norton determined to drive 



94 SPORTING DAYS 

on. He returned to the car, opened its rear door, and 
signified that old Joe should enter and there find 
ease and comfort. 

Old Joe looked once at the car and once at Jay 
Norton before fading from view along a line that 
would ultimately bring him to the patch of sunshine 
on the rear porch of the shack on the woods road. 
That he arrived there safely Jay Norton could not 
doubt after driving over next morning and observing 
him stretched contentedly in said patch of sunshine, 
snapping at an occasional fly that the warmth of 
Indian summer had encouraged to linger on. 

The queen slumbered regally in the doorway. 
Pook, seated on the single step of the porch, was 
deep in the picking of a headless, yellow-legged Ply- 
mouth Rock cockerel. 

"I been kind of expectin' you, Mistah Witha- 
spoon," he said. 

Jay Norton grunted. 

Pook freed the back of his hands of some cling- 
ing, wet feathers and glanced thoughtfully toward 
the patch of sunlight on the porch. 

"Seems like that ole Joe's what you might call a 
home dog. You got to kind of watch him that-a- 
way." 

Jay Norton, too moved for utterance, took old 



OLD JOE 95 

Joe by the collar, led him to the car and plumped 
him unceremoniously therein. He had a feeling, so 
he told me, that he was "behind the eight ball again." 
This suspicion was swiftly verified. Taking old Joe 
afield that afternoon, he was awed by the speed and 
certainty with which he found and pointed the three 
woodcock which the piece of cover contained. Then, 
as Jay Norton swung toward the waiting car, the 
dog, with equal speed and certainty, abandoned 
woodcock hunting in favor of a rapid return to his 
former abode. 

Again and again and yet again Jay Norton went 
after his three-hundred and-fifty-dollar investment, 
and again and again and yet again old Joe left him, 
when the first cover hunted was cleaned of birds and 
it was time to move on. Should Jay Norton try to lay 
guileful hands upon him, once he was out of the car, 
he departed instantly, to arrive with extraordinary 
dispatch on Pook's back porch. 

That worthy was at last moved to describe the 
situation in words that struck Jay Norton as shock- 
ingly significant. 

"It seems like that ole Joe jus' won't stay sold." 

Jay Norton eyed him balefully. 

"How many other suckers have bought this dog?" 
he demanded. 



96 SPORTING DAYS 

Pook concentrated in thought "All told?" 

Jay Norton erupted suddenly. Words that 
smoked, steamed and sizzled blasted the air about 
him. 

"Calm yo'self, Mistah Withaspoon," Pook ad- 
vised. "Jus' calm yo'self. Everything is going to be 
hotsy totsy." 

"How?" Jay Norton wanted to know. 

"I figure it this-a-way, Mistah Withaspoon. A 
man's got to be fair in this world. Fair and square. 
Ef he hain't, sooner or later he's goin' to git in 
wrong with his friends and neighbors. A dollah is a 
dollah ain' no denyin' that but a man's got to 
feel right about how he earns it, or that dollah ain' 
goin' to do him no good." 

"So what?" asked Jay Norton, hopefully. 

"Well, suh, the way it is, you ain' gettin' no real 
satisfaction out of ole Joe now is you?" 

"Hell, no." 

"All right. Let him have his way about this kinda 
wantin' to hang around hyar. I'll keep him f oh you 
at jus' egzactly what it costs me say fifteen dol- 
lahs a month." 

"Go on I" said Jay Norton. 
"Whenever you want a nice hunt with him, you 
come on out hyar an' I'll go 'long with you an' see 



OLD JOE 97 

that ole Joe does his duty by you. I'll charge you 
egzactly what my time's worth, and not a penny 
more." 

Jay Norton was regarding Pook with much the 
same look that a rabbit might bestow on an encircling 
python. 

"Go on !" he said again. 

"Figurin' my time right down to the bone would 
bring it to ten dollahs a day." 

That the offer was accepted goes without saying. 
Strong men are weaklings, as I have already inti- 
mated, when under the strange enchantment cast 
by the timberdoodle. Jay Norton summed it up in his 
later talk with me. 

"Xo get a decent day on woodcock, I've got to 
take that black highbinder with me and pay him ten 
bucks; but," he assured me firmly, "legally legally, 
mind you I own old Joe or do I?" 



The Fall of Mr. Barnstople 



THE FALL OF MR. BARNSTOPLE 

HERO worship, in the very young, will, now and 
then, assume the aspects of a profound mystery. For 
some entirely incomprehensible reason Bill or Jerry 
or Mary Ann will select a singularly uninspiring in- 
dividual on which to bestow a deep if childish loyalty, 
and will continue to seek out and idolize this dubious 
object of affection despite reason, ridicule or re- 
proach. 

Then, quite as unexplainably, the adored one loses 
his or her appeal to the relief of still puzzled 
elders and is, for the most part, quickly forgotten. 

My own first and most virulent attack of hero 
worship followed conventional lines except in the 
last regard. I shall never, I feel sure, forget one 
Zeke Barnstople. Furthermore, I can recall the exact 
hour yea, the very minute on which he fell from 
the heights to the extreme depths of my esteem for 
reasons that should be clear to such readers as pur- 
sue this narrative to its close. 

101 



102 SPORTING DAYS 

Zeke was a painter and paper hanger in fact, the 
painter and paper hanger of our town, since, at that 
time, ceaseless and all-pervading competition had 
not made living the desperate affair it is today. 
There was work for everybody too much of it, at 
certain seasons, for Zeke. All spring and summer 
his paste and paint brushes slap-slapped from dawn 
till dark in an effort to "oblige folks" who wanted 
to know just how soon he could get at their house 
or barn or parlor or spare bedroom that had been 
let go too long "a'ready." This was particularly un- 
fortunate since his one great passion could be in- 
dulged in only during the warm, bright days when 
the town clamored at his door and hounded him 
from "one job of work" directly into another. 

Zeke, by instinct and desire, was a fisherman. He 
talked of catching fish, he dreamed of catching fish ; 
but that was about all. He was forced to discuss bait 
while dipping a brush into a paste bucket; tackle as 
he adjusted a painting ladder. Luckily, however, one 
day of the year, on which fishing could be indulged 
in, was his. He could be browbeaten into working on 
Decoration Day and always was. Christmas, New 
Year's, Thanksgiving might find him on a scaffold 
or bending over a floor; but the day on which his 
natiye land commemorated its dedication to freedom 



THE FALL OF MR. BARNSTOPLE 103 

must not find him a slave to paint or paste brush. 
Bearing one of the axioms of a certain noble declara- 
tion in mind, he devoted each Fourth of July to the 
earnest pursuit of happiness. He went fishing! 

Zeke came into my life because of a spring fresh- 
ening of the interior and exterior of our home. As 
his paint or paper brightened our clapboards, side 
walls and ceilings I hovered in the background, at a 
respectful distance. This was my first observation of 
manual labor at close range a fascinating spectacle, 
I have since observed, to more adult eyes. Further- 
more, this particular activity was, I was soon con- 
vinced, among the more enviable and higher forms 
of art. I decided to adopt it as my future calling, 
forthwith, and longed for the drab and lagging days 
of youth to speed their passing, bringing me to the 
stature required to handle a wide paste brush and 
paste bucket plus a roll of ceiling paper on the dizzy 
heights of a seven-foot scaffold. 

If these were my reflections over the mere hang- 
ing of wallpaper, my enthusiasm, a few days later, 
as I observed the application of delicious-looking 
cream-yellow paint to porch posts and railings knew 
no bounds. This, I told myself, was the absolute 
peak in delightful occupations. My one fear was that 



104 SPORTING DAYS 

the immense dexterity required in its consummation 
could never be mine. 

Watching a small brush, dipped in rich mouth- 
watering chocolate follow down a windowpane 
frame, without leaving a trace of its passage on the 
glass, my hopes collapsed. A lifetime would not make 
such miracles possible for me. My admiration of the 
brush-wielder increased in proportion to my despair 
of ever approaching his amazing, God-given virtu- 
osity. 

Until now I had not ventured to address genius 
at its task, but this last dazzling exhibition forced 
admiring exclamations from me, followed by timid 
questions and more or less preoccupied replies from 
Zeke. Presently I became aware that he possessed 
still another attribute, perhaps the rarest of them 
all. I learned, subsequently, that a not-too-successful 
operation during an infantile attack of diphtheria had 
disarranged his epiglottis. The result was that this 
normally uninteresting organ became, in the throat 
of the adult Barnstople, a delightful instrument 
which, when he spoke, produced, at priceless inter- 
vals, a musical note not unlike the twitter of an 
alarmed canary. The sound, if Zeke were either 
bored or indifferent, was a sort of "tweet." In mo- 
uents of greater animation it became "tweet, tweet," 



THE FALL OF MR. BARNSTOPLE I<D$ 

or even, when deep emotion gripped him, "tweet, 
tweet, tweet." 

This disclosure of Zeke's richest gift was too much 
for me. I surrendered completely. The last course 
of my midday meal consisting of a substantial wedge 
of huckleberry pie, I looked at it longingly for a 
moment, then overcame temptation and galloped 
with it to the side porch on which I had last seen my 
new-found hero stretched at ease beside a dented 
dinner pail. In order to impress him to the fullest, 
I seized a toy pistol en route and shot him through 
the heart before presenting him with the wedge of 
pie. 

"Look out tweet how you handle that weapon, 
young fella," he advised. 

"I'm ole Cap Collier," I let him know as I low- 
ered the pistol and presented the wedge of pie. 
"Here, take it I" 

Zeke eyed the delicacy with restrained approval. 

"Well, now, Cap, just where did you get this here 
piece of pie?" 

"Mother gave it to me," I evaded* "It's for you, 
Mister Barnstople." 

"Now, that's real thoughtful of your Maw, tweet. 
You thank her kindly for me, Cap." 

The wed^e of Die changed hands. There followed 



106 SPORTING DAYS 

an interval devoted by Zeke to unhurried mastica- 
tion, while I, not without certain unworthy pangs, 
kept my eyes resolutely away from the absorbing 
spectacle. At last Zeke brushed some crumbs from 
his paint-spattered overalls with one hand and re- 
moved a dab of huckleberry juice from his stubbled 
chin with the back of the other. 

"Do you ever go fishin', Cap?" he inquired. 

I told him that as the result of protracted efforts 
I had succeeded in extracting several sunfish from 
the town reservoir. 

"Well, now, what do you think of that," said 
Zeke. "But I was referrin' especial to pickril and 
bass, tweet." 

"Gee," I said, "I'd like to catch a ole pickerel or 
a ole bass." 

"How about me an' you tryin' it some day?" 

"Gee, gosh! Mister Barnstople, would you take 
me?" 

"Yep." 

"Gee, gosh! When?" 

"How'd Fourth of July strike you?" 

"Gee, Mister Barnstople, that's more'n a month. 
Couldn't we go sooner?" 

"It don't look like it. It don't look like I'd get a 
breathin' spell between now and then. I can set right 



THE FALL OF MR. BARNSTOPLE IO/ 

here and count off jobs I've promised that'll, tweet, 
bring me right into September." 

Cast dawn for a moment, I brightened at a 
thought. 

"What about Sundays?" 

"Six days shalt thou labor, an' do all that thou 
hast to do," quoted Zeke sternly, "but the seventh 
is the Sabbath, tweet, of the Lord thy God, J'ever 
hear that, young fella?" 

I admitted some knowledge of the command with 
which the Deity had seen fit to smite my particular 
world. 

"Well, then, why'd you make a remark like you 
done? You, tweet, tryin' to lead me astray?" 

"Oh, no, Mister Barnstople. Gee whiz!" 

"Well, we'll let it pass. You just hold yourself 
ready for the Fourth." 

I gave up with a sigh and considered the ages 
that intervened between the early part of June and 
the Fourth of July. Then came a sobering recollec- 
tion of what that day meant in other transcendent 
joys. I hastened to put my thoughts into words. 

"But, Mister Barnstople, I most generally shoot 
firecrackers and torpedoes and nigger chasers all 
day." 



108 SPORTING DAYS 

Zeke regarded me with thoughtful gravity for a 
moment. 

"Sure enough," he said at last. "Well, everyone to 
his taste, I expect we'll have to call it off, tweet. 
J'ever hear of Mud Pond?" 

"I know where Darby's Pond is and Round 
Pond," I boasted. 

"I'm not talkin' about Darby's Pond or Round 
Pond or Chet's Pond or no other pond that every- 
body knows about, tweet. I'm talking about Mud 
Pond tweet an' I'm askin' you again if you ever 
heard of it?" 

"No, sir; I never did." 

"Thought not. Mighty few has. Know what's in 
Mud Pond?" 

"No, sir." 

"Pickril as long as you! Tweet!" 

"Gee, gosh!" 

"Fact tweet I seen 'em." 

Zeke went on to explain. Mud Pond, he told me, 
was "spang in the middle" of Holder's swamp a 
forbidding stretch of marsh land and thicket some 
miles to the north. The pond itself was no more than 
a pot-hole of a few acres surrounded by a thin strip 
of bog. "Projectin' round up there" during an idle 
day of the past winter, Zeke had found the pond 



THE FALL OF MR. BARNSTOPLE 109 

covered with a sheet of transparent ice. Gazing down 
through the broad window of ice into the amber 
depths below, he had beheld a sight that, as he de- 
scribed it, brought forth a rare double tweet. 

"As shore as I'm settin' here tellin' you, Cap," he 
declared, "they was pickril cruisin' round down 
there that'd go & yard tweet, tweet easy." 

Zeke had returned home dazed but full of plans. 
He "aimed" to go back next day and fish through 
the ice, until confronted by the thought that he 
didn't have the proper bait and the grip of winter 
made access to it impracticable. 

"Minnies is what them ole sockarinos wanted, 
Cap. Minnies or frogs tweet. But they wusn't no 
frogs, acourse, an' everything was friz up so tight I 
couldn't get holt of no minnies. Then right away, 
before I could get it studied out, tweet, they raised 
enough money to have the Revrund Honeycut's house 
papered, an' there I was." 

"Gee whizl" I gasped* "Do you suppose they're 
still there?" 

"You bet they're there. How they goin' to get 
out? An' I know what they want, this time of year 
tweet minnies I It's like this, Cap. Them pickril 
got to be that big by wolfin' down frogs. That ther 



1 10 SPORTING DAYS 

place is squirmin' with frogs all summer; so I'll give 



'em minnies." 



"Why not frogs, Mister Barnstople?" 

"How does ice cream strike you, Cap?" 

"Gosh!" 

"Well, what if you had to eat it, tweet, three 
times a day, an' nothin' else, for six months?" 

I contemplated the exquisite thought for a mo- 
ment, letting its delightful possibilities have their 
way with me. 

"M-m-m!" 

"No, sir, it wouldn't be 'm-m-m' ; it ud be 'take it 
away' I You'd get so, tweet, you couldn't look at a 
plate chocolate or vanilly or nothin'." 

Only my measureless respect for the man, as an 
artist, kept me silent in the face of this preposterous 
assertion. 

"That's why I'll use minnies for them pickril, 1 * 
Zeke went on. "Frogs has lost their zest. That is, if 
I can figger a way to get a minnie in where they're 
at." 

"What do you mean, Mister Barnstople?" 

"Well, Cap, you can't get to the pond by a good 
thirty feet on account of it bein' so treacherous all 
around the edge. Then these here pickril is layin' in 
a hole forty feet or so beyond that. I been studying 



THE FALL OF MR. BARNSTOPLE 1 1 1 

some, and I've got the thing pretty near set. I'll have 
everything right by the Fourth, tweet. All I'll have 
to watch out for is one of the big ones pullin' me 
right on into the pond, tweet, when he takes holt." 

"Gee, gosh!" 

The one o'clock whistle at the planing mill blew. 

"There she goes! We've got to get back on the 
job." Zeke rose by sections and stretched prodigi- 
ously. "Hand me that can of turp, over there on the 
railing, Cap, like a good fella." 

Swelling with pride, I hastened to obey. 

Two days later Zeke hailed me from a painting 
ladder as I reported for duty immediately after 
breakfast. 

"Got it, Cap tweet. It come to me in the night." 

"What did, Mister Barnstople?" 

"How to get a minnie in to them pickril. It'll work 
like goose grease. It puts 'em at my mercy, when 
the Fourth comes around." 

"Oh, Mister Barnstople, take me with you." 

"How about, tweet, them firecrackers an* all?" 

I hesitated for an instant only. The possible spec- 
tacle of Zeke battling to remain on dry land against 
the remorseless pull of a giant pickerel swept me 
into emitting words of sacrilege that I had never 
dreamed could pass my lips. 



112 SPORTING DAYS 

"What's a lot of ole firecrackers?" 

"All right, Cap, tweet. It's a deal!" 

In the endless weeks preceding the Fourth, Zeke 
perfected his plan of attack on the giant pickerel of 
Mud Pond. His munitions of war consisted chiefly 
of a stout fifty-yard handline with a short wire leader 
and a three-ounce oval-shaped sinker. This last was 
bored from end to end, so that the line could pass 
freely through it. A swivel prevented the sinker from 
running down the leader, but a fish could take out 
line at will, when first seizing the bait, with no sus- 
picious drag to distract him. 

Zeke had sent away to a sporting-goods firm for 
line, leader and sinker. He allowed me to inspect 
them on the day of their arrival. I then accompanied 
him into his back yard, where he proceeded to "kind 
of get his hand in," as he put it. Coiling the line at 
his feet, he seized the end close to the sinker and pro- 
duced a gradually increasing whirl, ending in a heave. 
When a heave at last succeeded in taking out forty 
yards of line, Zeke favored me with a cunning wink. 

"Cap," he said, "we'll teach them pickril not to 
cough in church!" 

On the evening preceding the Fourth, Zeke and I 
betook ourselves to Skank's Creek, a sluggish stream 
not far from town to secure the all-important u min- 



THE FALL OF MR. BARNSTOPLE 113 

nies." We were equipped with a seine and a minnow 
bucket. Zeke wore a pair of hip boots. Scorning such 
impedimenta, I elected to shed shoes and stockings 
and go in "barefoot" to handle my end of the seine. 

Owing to parental control, going without shoes 
and stockings was a luxury that was seldom mine. 
My feet, in consequence, shrank from the unyielding 
bottom of Skank's Creek. Before enough carefully 
culled black sucker minnows were secured, my big 
toes had been stubbed into a state where amputation 
seemed the only recourse and the bottoms of my feet 
were stone-bruised to such an extent that each step 
I took sent a wave of anguish up my body to end 
with a jolt at the top of my head. 

Somehow I managed to limp back to Zeke's to 
see that the minnows, won at such fearful cost to my 
underpinning, were safely sunk in a pool in a small 
spring run just back of his house. I then hobbled 
homeward, leaving to Zeke the task of borrowing 
a horse and buggy which would bear us the six miles 
to Mud Pond the following morning and serve, like- 
wise, for our triumphant return. 

The Fourth dawned cloudless and without the 
faintest breeze. It promised to be a hot day. Getting 
my shoes on proved to be a matter of sheer will 
power, and the walk of a quarter of a mile from my 



114 SPORTING DAYS 

house to Zeke's required something of the same spirit 
which, some years later, took men up trench ladders, 
and over the top. 

Zeke met me at his door. 

"Got some bad news for you, Cap. Everybody's 
using their rigs for the Fourth. Looks like, tweet, 
we'll have to step it." 

The curious reticence of youth ! I remember that 
standing, so it seemed, on red-hot coals, I only said, 
"All right, Mister Barnstople." 

"What worries me," said Zeke, "is our minnies, 
tweet. We're goin' to have to freshen 'em up three 
or four times between here an' the pond, or they're 
goin' to die on us. We got to take the Ridge Road, 
an' it's quite a climb down to water anywhere along 
there. Well, we'd better get started." 

How far we had gone along the Ridge Road I can 
not say I imagine the Indian Fakirs, who walk un- 
shod on knife blades, are poor judges of distance 
when Zeke set down the minnow bucket and began 
to slap his person, first here, first there, in an un- 
accountable manner, 

"My goodness ; tweet, tweet," he said, "I've went 
and left the sinker back home 1" 

I promptly moved to a beckoning log and sank 
down, grateful for the catastrophe that had brought 



THE FALL OF MR. BARNSTOPLE 

me a moment of ease. I did not greatly care what 
its aftermath might be. 

"Well, Cap, I got to go back an' fetch it. Let's 
see how our minnies is makin' out." 

Zeke raised the cover of the minnow bucket and 
peered within. "Spry as crickets, tweet, so far. Now, 
listen; they ain't goin' to stay that way long when 
the sun gets up good. You set here in the shade an' 
watch J em, Cap. If they begin to come to the top 
for air, hustle down to the brook an' put fresh water 
in the can. The brook's down that bank t'other side 
of them evergreens. It's pretty steep, but you can 
make it. Fll be quick as I'm able." 

I watched Zeke stride back the way we had come, 
then took up my task of observing the minnows a 
black cloud in the confining circle of the minnow 
bucket. It was not unpleasant sitting there in the 
shade. The burning of my feet had noticeably sub- 
sided when they were no longer forced to bear me 
onward. Then I heard the faint note of an attack- 
ing mosquito and slapped at the sound, One lit on 
my wrist; another on the back of my hand; an ankle 
began to itch. In a moment I was the center of a 
vicious swarm with which I sat and fought a losing 
battle. 

Presently a look into the minnow bucket revealed 



Il6 SPORTING DAYS 

a distressing sight. Some of its inmates were at the 
top of the water, sucking earnestly for air. Even as I 
watched, others rose and joined them. Picking up the 
heavy bucket, I limped in the direction of the brook 
and came abruptly to a minor precipice, its sides 
panoplied by blackberry vines and second-growth. 
Far below I could see the gleam of a ribbon of water 
so very far below that I decided not to attempt to 
get down to it. I would wait for Zeke. 

An anxious look at the minnows appalled me. The 
top of the water was a mass of sucking mouths, shot 
here and there with a streak of silver as a little fish 
turned, for a moment, on its side before feebly right- 
ing itself. With a gasp of mingled determination and 
despair I plunged down toward the brook, tearing 
my clothes, scratching my hands and face, but arriv- 
ing eventually at the blessed water. It was extra- 
ordinary what some of that water did to those min- 
nows. I watched their renewed activity with relief 
before beginning the climb back to the road. 

I still wonder why the labors of Hercules did not 
include an attempt to climb a 60 degree slope, cov- 
ered with blackberry briers, on a hot July morning, 
while carrying a three-gallon minnow bucket* A third 
of the way up I fell on my face. The minnow bucket 
crashed to earth, the precious water seeking again 



THE FALL OF MR. BARNSTOPLE 1 17 

the brook from whence it came, to leave a hoard 
of minnows beating a frantic tattoo against the tin 
walls of their empty prison. 

In a sort of frenzy I picked myself up and, with 
the minnow bucket, half slid, half fell, back to the 
brook. Once more I assailed the slope and somehow 
arrived at the top, on the verge of complete collapse 
but with a gratifying amount of water still in the 
minnow bucket. I was still gasping for breath when 
Zeke appeared. 

"What's happened to your face, Cap? It's all 
over bumps I" 

"It must be mosquito bites, Mister Barnstople." 

"Well, what scratched you up like that?" 

"Blackberry briers, I guess." 

"Been berryin' while I was gone, eh? How's the 
minnies?" Zeke dived for the bucket. "Doin' finel" 
he said, with relief. "Did you have to water 'em?" 

"Yes, Mister Barnstople." 

"Good for you, Cap. Well, let's hustle along." 

So we hustled along, and the memory of that jour- 
ney will be with me till I dose my eyes in my last, 
long sleep. Before it was over I would have gladly 
sunk into it, then and there. Twice more Zeke was 
forced to slide down to the brook and climb back 
with the precious "minnies." At the last he looked as 



Il8 SPORTING DAYS 

forlornly brier-scratched, jaded and sweat-bathec 
as I. 

Ultimately our thrilling goal hove in view. W< 
glimpsed Mud Pond, smiling in the sun through wil 
lows and high rank grasses. As we came to the edge 
of its guarding strip of bog all my pains were for 
gotten. I stood there in the broiling sun, shaking witt 
excitement. My stone-bruised feet and thoughts oJ 
the miles they would have to bear me in returning 
me to my home troubled me not at all. In anothei 
moment my dreams of the past month would come 
true. I would be a close spectator of my hero's combat 
with, and undoubted triumph over, pickerel of suet 
stupendous size that my imagination had failed tc 
envisage them. 

Zeke promptly went into action. Taking the hand- 
line from his pocket, he coiled it carefully on the 
ground. Next he threaded the line with his adroitly 
fashioned sinker and tied the wire leader to the end. 
He snapped on a hook and selected one of the largest 
of the minnows, which he impaled, through the lips, 
thereon. 

"All right, tweet. Stand back, Cap, an' gimme 
room!" 

The minnow and three-ounce sinker whirled and 
whirled again, ever more rapidly. Then Zeke put his 



THE PALL OF MR. BARNSTOPLE 119 

back, his very soul into a breath- taking heave. Min- 
now and sinker soared out into space. They were 
followed by the line, yard after yard twenty yards, 
thirty, forty all of it I 

Minnow, sinker and line disappeared into the un- 
assailable depths of Mud Pond. 

A horrid silence followed the faint splash I had 
heard as our entire fishing equipment left us, to re- 
turn no more. It was broken at last by Zeke. 

"My, my! tweet, tweet, looks like I overdone it 
that time, Cap 1" 

Came another crushing silence in which my heart 
dropped with a thud to the bottoms of my suddenly 
aching feet. 

Again Zeke spoke. 

"No use cryin* over spilt milk. What's done is 
done. But don't you fret, Cap I'll tie her to 
sumpin' tweet, tweet, tweet nex' Fourth of July." 

That was the instant in which my admiration for, 
and unquestioning faith in, "Mister Barnstople" left 
me as swiftly, with as little chance of returning, as 
his fifty yards of line had departed from him. 



Lily Belle Gets the Air 




THE POINTERS BEGAN TO SOAR BACK AND 
FORTH ACROSS THE FIELD. 



LILY BELLE GETS THE AIR 

IT is a rather curious fact that, to most of us, the 
indescribable satisfaction of owning the perfect bird 
dog comes but once in a lifetime. If fate wills that 
this paragon is to be ours during early manhood, we 
spend the rest of our years trying to possess his 
equal. If we are blessed with his companionship 
when the gray has touched our temples and the 
shooting eye has difficulty with a grouse or a wood- 
cock hurtling through the variegated confusion of 
autumn foliage, we are apt to feel, for a time, that 
when he is gone our days afield are over. 

Approaching this latter period, after twenty 
years of searching for another Old Jack grouse 
dog extraordinary of my youth I came to suspect 
that not only would I never find another like him, 
but that if I did his efforts might be wasted. If Old 
Jack was just a retrospection, so were the grouse 
of yesterday that he had found and held, under any 

1*3 



124 SPORTING DAYS 

and all conditions, day in and day out, season after 
season, as long as there was breath in his body. 

There were still ruffed grouse, to be sure. They 
were descended from those very birds, of blessed 
memory, that I had frequently kicked out of brush 
piles or down tree-tops at Jack's rigid insistence ; but 
they had come to possess an almost diabolical knowl- 
edge of when and how to take wing, plus the foot- 
work of a suburban cock pheasant. They seemed to 
know to a yard the killing range of nitro powder 
and No. 8 shot and the exact purpose of a man with 
a shotgun who appeared among them on any of the 
thirty-one rapturous days following October 14. Im- 
probable as it seemed, they appeared to be as well 
aware of the opening date as I. Prior to that they 
would burst up at heart-disturbing distances and roar 
recklessly into open glades or along the edge of the 
cover a mark for any tyro to shoot at. 

Then came the day of days, and I would venture 
forth with visions of fan-tailed bombshells nicely set 
off against the blue of the sky. My dog would make 
game. He would begin to road cautiously toward 
an old stone wall. Fifty yards away, on the other 
side of the wall, a grouse would slip quietly into the 
air, skim the ground for another fifty yards and 



LILY BELLE GETS THE AIR 125 

then slice into a hemlock swamp. Later, with cat- 
briers viciously assailing my legs, a spider-web 
pasted over one eye, a laurel branch poking into my 
mouth and nostrils, I would hear his muffled de- 
parture somewhere ahead in the gloom of the 
swamp. His destination, I came to know, was a 
perch well up in a hemlock tree. 

Could Old Jack master of thickets that he was 
have coped with this sort of thing? I began to 
doubt it. The situation was forlorn. I had given up 
the hope of finding another super grouse dog, and 
should I succeed in doing so I doubted his ability to 
handle birds that were acquiring, more and more as 
the seasons passed, the distressing habits of a Blue 
Ridge wild gobbler. 

Then a long-legged son of Georgia, who can pick 
out two cock quail on a covey rise and kill them 
stone-dead, came up into Yankee land on business 
and joined me for a day's grouse shooting. At two 
o'clock he dropped his gun into the hollow of his 
arm and spoke somewhat as follows: "Listen. What 
I say is nuts to this. It would take a cross between 
a so-an'-so jackass and a so-an'-so swamp nigger to 
relish chasing these so-an'*so ruffled grouse around 
through cover that you wouldn't have the heart to 
send a so-an'-so coon dog into. These birds ain't fit 



126 SPORTING DAYS 

for human society. They can outsmart a mule trader. 
Which-a-way is the car from here ? I reckon I'll go 
find it and take a load off my feet." 

Later, before a birch-wood fire, he again touched 
lightly on the subject of my favorite form of 
shooting. 

"So you were brung up on these so-an'-so ruffled 
grouse," he mused. "Well, you've got to go easy 
with a man when it comes to that kind of thing. It 
looks like I've got to make allowances about what 
you like to shoot at, on account of your upbringing; 
but you come down to Atlanta on January first, and 
I'll take you into south Georgia and put you on a 
nice-gaited, sure-footed saddle hoss, with a pair of 
wide-going pointers out there doing their stuff, and 
right soon I'll show you something to bang away at 
that you can really see." 

In such fashion was I transplanted to the South* 
I took my friend at his word. That first trip weaned 
me from the ultra-suspicious ruffed grouse of the 
Catskills and started me on a search, for bold, 
wide-going pointers that one could follow at ease 
on a saddle horse with a 2O-gauge stuck in a scab- 
bard dangling ahead of the right leg and a pleasant 
Southern sun beaming down on it all. 

Those were the days of plenty. I elected to ac- 



LILY BELLE GETS THE AIR 127 

quire a kennel of such dogs. I was aided and abetted 
in this undertaking by my friend. With headquarters 
in Atlanta he acquired, by some method that es- 
caped me, knowledge of most of the gun dogs in 
south Georgia. If word of a sufficiently promising 
candidate came to him, we would motor to the 
county where the dog was owned and spend a day 
in the field shooting quail over him. Rarely would 
my friend recommend his purchase. 

"Well, he's not a bad sort of a dog," he would 
opine. "I'd like to see him go up to his coveys a 
little more bold like, and he don't hunt his ground 
just to suit me, all the time. Piddles around some 
if you noticed. I don't reckon I'd bother with him. 
Let's get on back to Atlanta." 

On the occasion of my first purchase I received a 
shock. We had spent an exhilarating day shooting 
over a black, white and ticked pointer that, as my 
friend confided to me in guarded tones, could do 
it all. 

"Leave the dickering to me," he advised. "You 
just keep still" 

Presently the dog's owner a share cropper in 
striped blue denim overalls my friend, the tired 
dog and I were grouped at the running-board of 
my car. 



1 28 SPORTING DAYS 

"Right nice little dog," said my friend. "What 
would you expect to get for him?" 

"Wouldn't take a cent less than seventy-five dol- 
lars," the share cropper announced firmly. 

I doubted that I had heard aright. My impulse 
was to count seventy-five dollars quickly into a cal- 
loused palm and whisk the dog away to Atlanta 
before his benighted owner came to his senses. I was 
stupefied to hear my friend emit a loud guffaw 
and climb into the waiting automobile. 

Thirty minutes later we drove away from the 
share cropper's bare, red-clay front yard and headed 
for Atlanta. The dog was quietly snoring on the 
back seat of the car. He had cost me forty-five dol- 
lars. In this manner I acquired four dogs all point- 
ers and one small, snipe-nosed setter bitch, named 
Myrtle, whose history I have recorded elsewhere. 
Seldom does one man own at one time five better 
quail dogs. The top price that I had paid for any of 
them was sixty dollars; but my friend pointed out 
to me that we had been "held up," as he put it, 
because "the papers went with him." 

I had thought that my kennel was now complete 
and our search abandoned. One evening my tele- 
phone rang. It proved to be my friend, who in- 
formed me that we were leaving town at six o'clock 



LILY BELLE GETS THE AIR 129 

next morning to drive to Bainbridge, Georgia, two 
hundred miles south. 

"What for?" I asked. 

I had detected a strange, suppressed excitement 
in the voice I had been hearing. Now it lowered to 
become hoarsely confidential. "I hear you can buy 
Decatur Jack." 

"So what?" I said. 

There were sputterings from the other end of the 
wire that finally became intelligible. "Listen, Yank. 
Decatur Jack is a bird dog what I mean, a bird 
dog!" 

"But I've got five bird dogs now," I reminded 
him. 

"Ain't that awful," said the voice. "He calls 
them things he's got bird dogs when I'm talking 
about Decatur Jack." 

"Well," I said, "I can't go. I'm meeting a fel- 
low from New York that is getting in on the Cres- 
cent. You go down and buy him for me, if you think 
I ought to have him." 

"Ought to have him! Good God A'mighty!" 

Words seemed to fail him. I heard the telephone 
click as he hung up. 

At 7:00 P.M. the following evening my friend 
got out of a mud-spattered car and led a bird dog 



130 SPORTING DAYS 

to my door. He was a huge, clumsy pointer pure 
white except for one pale-lemon-colored ear. His 
luminous amber eyes were slightly bulging and filled 
with a sort of humorous tolerance of things in gen- 
eral and me in particular. He gave the impression 
of being more at home in strange surroundings than 
any creature I have ever seen. Acknowledging the 
amenities between host and guest with a swing or 
two of his club-like tail, he slumped down in front 
of the drawing-room fire, yawned prodigiously, 
dropped his big head on his mastiff-like paws and 
went to sleep. 

"Well, there he is Decatur Jack," said my 
friend. "I stole him for you." 

"How much?" I asked absently as I stared at the 
great dog that suggested a large white calf stretched 
incongruously before an open fire. 

"Four hundred," said my friend exultantly. 

And now my startled eyes left Decatur Jack and 
swung abruptly to the dispenser of these tidings. 

"Four hun " I began. 

"Yep. I'd have given a thousand, if they'd only 
known it," 

"Why?" I managed to ask. 

My friend regarded the sleeping pointer thought- 
fully. 



LILY BELLE GETS THE AIR 131 

"Fooling around up North with those ruffled 
grouse has kept you from hearing about this dog, 
but there ain't a bird hunter, from here to Savannah, 
that wouldn't give his right leg for him. My father- 
in-law's in town, and Lily Belle will kind of expect 
me to show the old man around tomorrow, so I 
won't be able to go with you ; but you take this dog 
out somewhere where there's quail, and that'll save 
me a lot of talking." 

It so happened that I had promised to hunt next 
day with a bird-dog enthusiast, a real estater by pro- 
fession, who seldom touched upon the subject of 
salable property. So far as I had been able to judge, 
his waking hours were given to disclosing the merits 
of a pair of pointers which he kept, in a birdy sec- 
tion, near Greenville, Georgia. It was over this pair 
that we proposed to shoot; but morning found me 
at the door of his Atlanta home with Decatur Jack 
asleep on the floor of the car. 

"What have you got in here?" demanded the real 
estater, peering at my recent purchase. 

"Dog I just bought," I informed him* 

"Any good?" 

"I've heard he is. Thought we'd work him some 
today and find out." 

"Sure, surel" He climbed into the car. "You're 



132 SPORTING DAYS 

certainly going to see something when we get to 
Greenville. I'm going to show you a pair of real 
bird dogs. You're going to love every move they 
make." 

I did not love the first move the male dog of the 
pair made when we opened the rear door at Green- 
ville to let them into the car. He bristled, drew back 
his lips and growled ominously at Decatur Jack. 

The big pointer lifted his head from the car floor 
and turned it, to take in the brawler, with great, 
sleepy amber eyes. He looked at the quarrelsome 
one with complete indifference for a moment, then 
dropped his head to the floor again and resumed his 
nap. The newcomer subsided with a last few mut- 
tered curses. It was as though a great gentleman, 
dozing in a club window, had silenced a vociferous 
newsboy with a casual stare. 

Greenville is not in the flat lands of south Georgia. 
It is a rolling country which is hunted on foot. We 
presently stopped at the scene of our first activities 
a large billowing field in which two coveys were 
supposed to reside. As the car door was opened the 
Greenville pointers shot away and began to soar 
back and forth across the field like a pair of air- 
planes. 



LILY BELLE GETS THE AIR 133 

"Look at 'em go !" their owner exulted. "Can they 
travel I ask you?" 

"They surely can," I admitted, keeping half an 
eye on Decatur Jack, despite the pyrotechnics of the 
other two. 

His procedure was exactly as follows: a leisurely 
rise from the car floor; a lumbering descent from 
the car; the unhurried lifting of a leg in answer to a 
call of nature; two vigorous thrusts at the ground 
with his rear feet ; a shake of his body to rid himself, 
apparently, of the slothfulness engendered by a long 
motor ride. These things accomplished, he galloped, 
in a stately fashion and in a straight line, some fifty 
yards to the left of us and froze abruptly into a 
point. 

All this being unnoticed by the real estater, he 
continued to observe the flying pair with a gloating 
eye and extol their virtues. 

"Did you," he demanded, "ever see a pair of 
young dogs cover their ground nicer than those two 
out there?" 

"No," I said, "I never did." 

"Did you ever see a faster, wider pair at any age ? 
Now did you ?" 

"They're fliers, all right." 



134 SPORTING DAYS 

"Isn't it a real pleasure to see dogs move like 
that?" 

"Yes," I said, "it is. But Henry" my compan- 
ion's name was Henry "when you're tired of 
watching them go, we might step over here to this 
white dog and kill some birds." 

"What's that?" said Henry. His absorbed gaze 
tore itself from the distant pair and rested upon the 
statuesque Decatur Jack, a stone's throw away. 
"Well, I'll be a" But what Henry said he'd be 
I shall not set down upon this fair white page. 

That was my introduction to the second of the 
two great Jacks that have been mine in one short 
lifetime. On this first day of our association, four- 
teen coveys were moved. Of these, two were found 
by Henry's pair, and one was questionable, since all 
three dogs were on point when we came upon them 
in a thicket. Decatur Jack went to the eleven other 
coveys. 

I say "went to," because that is literally what he 
did. He did not hunt, as lesser quail dogs are forced 
to do. By some God-given attribute of nose or bird 
sense or judgment of the country he simply rnwM 
with only slight variations from a straight line 
one covey to the next. How he did it was beyoi 
It was still beyond me after I had watched him 



LILY BELLE GETS THE AIR 135 

performance of these miracles, day after day, for 
many days. 

He never seemed to hurry at his work. When put 
down, he did not rush away like a mad thing. He 
was apt to perform the ritual, already noted, before 
breaking into the tireless, long-striding gallop that 
took him from covey straight to covey. And yet, in 
the flat country of south Georgia, where wide fast 
dogs abound, when he was put down with a speedster 
for an hour's dash, one was surprised to notice that 
he was abreast of his brace-mate if the other dog 
elected to take JackVdirection toward the inevitable 
covey. 

Another of his accomplishments was the way he 
accommodated himself to the type of country in 
which he was put down. As a rule, the class dog of 
the open spaces simply goes out of one's life when 
hunted in hilly, wooded country. I have sat on a 
horse and seen Decatur Jack become a dim white 
speck on the far horizon in south Georgia. I have 
seen him leave a great wide stretch of splendid quail 
cover, where birds had heretofore always been 
found, fight his way through an almost impenetrable 
patch of briers, thirty yards deep, swim a river, bore 
through a similar patch of briers on the other bank, 
work to the top of a steep rise thinly covered with 



136 SPORTING DAYS 

pine-oak, find a covey and later other coveys that, for 
some unknown reason, had taken to this sparse hill- 
side. But always he contrived, from time to time, to 
be in sight. That brain of his had easily discovered 
the simple fact, hidden from so many shooting dogs, 
that birds fall only when a man is there with a gun. 

To this discovery of his I owe a triumphant vin- 
dication. A certain editor of an outdoor magazine, 
which shall be nameless, has put in many weary 
hours listening to rapt enthusiasts burble of their 
shooting dogs. The certain editor has, in conse- 
quence, become skeptical, not to say hard-boiled, in 
his attitude toward Shot or Dan or Fanny, whose 
work he has never had the doubtful pleasure of 
observing. 

Having spent a season in the South shooting over 
the wonder dog that a kind providence had placed in 
my hands, I returned north for the summer. While 
spending a day on a trout stream with the editor in 
question I proceeded to grow lyrical over the big 
white wizard and all his works. I was checked in the 
middle of my panegyric by a look of pain on the edi- 
torial countenance. Obviously, the man was suffering. 

"AH right," I said. 'Til have him shipped to 
Honga next fall, and prove it." 

By "Honga" I meant the Honga River Gun Club, 



LILY BELLE GETS THE AIR 137 

on the eastern shore of Maryland, of which both the 
editor and I are members. It is primarily a duck club, 
but there are some two thousand acres of land on 
which, during spells of bluebird weather, we do a 
casual bit of quail shooting. 

The following November saw me fulfill my prom- 
ise. A day came when the editor and I met at Honga. 
Decatur Jack was safely in the club kennels. The edi- 
tor was gripped by such enthusiasm at the prospect 
of shooting over the dog that he killed ducks until 
lunch time and then took a nap until three o'clock in 
the afternoon. 

I must confess to some misgiving as I let Jack out 
of his runway and waved him toward a small open 
field in the immediate foreground. Accustomed to the 
limitless sweeps of south Georgia, what would he 
do in this new cramping country where small fields 
were crowded on all sides by pine woods and briery 
thickets? Would he simply disappear from view to 
strengthen the editor's suspicion that all men are 
liars where their own bird dogs are concerned ? 

What he did was to stay exactly within the con- 
fines of this miniature course and go, in one hour and 
forty minutes, almost as the crow flies, from one 
covey of quail to the next, until he had found nine. 
We lost sight of him only once. This was on the last 



138 SPORTING DAYS 

covey. We stumbled on him, holding these birds, 
when it was too dark to shoot. I think I should add 
that, over this same ground, the average bird dog 
could be expected to find four or five coveys in a full 
day's hunt. 1 

It is worthy of note, I think, that from that day 
on the certain editor is quite liable to cause signifi- 
cant, not to say injured, looks to pass between other 
members of the circle when it is his turn to hold 
forth at a dog-fanning bee and he decides to recall 
his short afternoon with Decatur Jack. 2 

Came the depression. I suddenly found myself 
unable to roam the country at will, nor could I longer 
maintain a kennel of quail dogs for south Georgia 
shooting, when, so far as I could see, trips to south 
Georgia were things of the past. I got rid of all but 
one dog and crawled back to up-state New York, 
taking a too-rusty pen and Decatur Jack with me* 

But grouse season arrives, even for hard-driven 
writers, and the grouse, I knew, were just outside 
my study window. On an opening day the white 
pointer and I set forth. What he would do with 
grouse on rocky, brier-infested, laurel-ridden moun- 
tainsides I had not the faintest idea. 

1 Editor's Note : To the preceding paragraph, check and double- 
check. Ray P. Holland. 

2 Editorial confession : Too true ! R. P. H. 



LILY BELLE GETS THE AIR 139 

He lumbered off. Presently a grouse flushed fifty 
feet ahead of him. 

"You, Jack!" I called. "Whoahl Careful!" 

He stopped and looked at me with no sign of 
apology. He simply observed me with his character- 
istic amused tolerance. I think he had acquired that 
look early in life, when his first owner, whoever he 
may have been, attempted to show him where to 
find quail. The look in this instance seemed to say, 
"My dear fellow, is that what you want to shoot at 
animated hens? Well, really! Still, if that's your 
idea, we might as well get at it." 

He proceeded to go to grouse without the slight- 
est hesitation, point them and, in many cases, hold 
them until they got out almost under my feet when 
I came up. If his work on quail had filled me with 
awe, now I was completely bewildered. A slight, 
ghost-like setter bitch that had been my most recent 
grouse dog had crept soundlessly to her points and 
had rarely succeeded in given me a decent shot. And 
here was this great calf of a dog plunging off- 
handedly through the cover and nailing ruffed grouse 
with a lack of finesse that was almost brutal. 

Later, as I thought it over, I felt that I had 
solved the mystery. The fact that Jack the Second 
did not make game or road or hesitate over locating 



140 SPORTING DAYS 

a bird did the trick. Going to a grouse with the same 
bee-line directness that took him to a covey of quail, 
he stopped and there was the crouching bird, too 
befuddled to fly. The dog overcame cunning with 
boldness. He didn't give those Catskill grouse time 
to think. 

At any rate, my second Jack afforded me some- 
thing like the shooting I had enjoyed in thickets of 
long ago with that other Jack of cherished memory, 
and I had found a dog, after all, who could handle 
that distrustful sophisticate in feathers the mod- 
ern ruffed grouse. 

A year sped by, as years do. Once more the long- 
legged son of Georgia ventured north. Meeting him 
in New York, I suggested that he come up to the 
Catskills with me for a few days' shooting. 

"At ruffled grouse?" he inquired. 

"Yes," I said. "I want you to see the big white 
dog handle them." 

"You don't mean to say youVe got him doing it 
too?" 

I nodded. 

He shook his head mournfully- "Well," he said, 
"I always did think he had more sense than any 
man I ever saw, but I reckon being around you 
steady has kind of weakened his mind." 



LILY BELLE GETS THE AIR 141 

"Come for a day at least," I urged. 

"Can't," he said. "Lily Belle has been sort of 
poorly here lately. I've been worried about her. 
Gotta get back." 

Expressing the hope that the wife of his bosom 
would soon be enjoying her usual good health, I con- 
tinued to urge him. 

"I'd like to see the big dog again," he admitted 
at last, "and find out what you've done to him. I'll 
fool around with you for just one day. I can still take 
it, I reckon." 

At about 9:15 the following morning, Decatur 
Jack banged into a point on a big cock grouse that 
had ventured out among the blackberry briers in an 
old apple orchard. The bird roared up and swung 
back toward the hemlocks. My friend's gun spoke 
and the grouse crumpled in mid-flight as though 
every bone in his body had been broken, leaving a 
cloud of feathers to float languidly down into the 
tangle of briers. Jack, for some reason, brought the 
bird to my friend. He took it from that great pink 
mouth, smoothed its plumage, then put it into his 
hunting coat without a word. 

At approximately 9:45, Jack pointed again 
among some beech trees on a mountainside. My 
friend advanced toward the dog. From a welter of 



142 SPORTING DAYS 

lichen-covered rocks and clumps of laurel a grouse 
shot almost straight up. It reached the higher 
branches of the beech trees like a rocket and -was 
leveling for a sail off among the tree-tops when it 
folded in mid-air and fell like a plummet almost at 
our feet. 

My friend broke his gun, slipped a shell into the 
right barrel and picked up that very dead bird. Again 
he smoothed bronzed feathers into place, gently and 
in silence. Becoming aware that Decatur Jack was 
observing him with a more than usual amount of 
amusement, the son of Georgia spoke. 

"The big so-an'-so thinks something is funny 
around here," he said, "and he's looking right at 
me." His eyes dropped to the dead bird he was still 
absently stroking. They lifted to give me a some- 
what embarrassed look. "Listen, is there a little 
place, close about, I could rent for a month? I kind 
of think some of this mountain air might do Lily 
Belle a lot of good." 



The Diver Takes to Pinochle 




I WATCHED THE DIVER SPIN, TWIRL AND 
STAGGER DOWNSTREAM. 



THE DIVER TAKES TO PINOCHLE 

THERE are few certainties in the nebulous art of 
angling. Any hour any day your fondest theory 
may explode in your face. Having been assured by 
long experience that the dry fly is of no avail in 
early spring, there will come a day it may be snow- 
ing gently at the time when you consign a floater 
to the unbroken surface of a pool just to see it ride. 
Instantly a trout rushes up from icy depths and takes 
it. So, later, do many of his equally benighted 
brethren. 

You go home with the left shoulder sagging pleas- 
antly under the weight of a heavy creel, determined 
to return and do likewise on the morrow. Alas, no 
single trout deigns to notice a dry fly on the follow- 
ing day, or on any other day that April. As a matter 
of fact, eighteen or nineteen years may pass before 
the patient casting of dry flies on various streams in 
early spring puts anything to speak of in the frying 
pan. 

145 



146 SPORTING DAYS 

Now let us suppose you have been persuaded by 
excellent authorities that it is not the color or type 
of fly that matters; it is the method of presenting 
it that is the controlling factor in bringing home the 
bacon. Comes a morning when your few chosen pat- 
terns, no matter how artfully offered, get you exactly 
nothing. In desperation you dig out of the lunch 
pocket of your fishing coat the old fly box a relic 
of the days when you spent a greater part of your 
time changing flies* 

You open up this miniature steamer trunk and 
gaze at its contents in dismay. What an appalling 
collection of bedraggled relics 1 You select perversely 
the worse-looking specimen of the lot a huge 
bilious-looking bottle-washer and cast it listlessly 
upon the water. You are startled into a premature 
strike by seeing two brown trout heading earnestly 
for this synthetic titbit from opposite directions. 

A field day follows. All the yellow bottle-washers 
in the old fly box are used up. That evening you tele- 
graph for more. You await their arrival in a frenzy 
of impatience. They come. You dash for the stream 
with a full two dozen of the precious things and lay 
one cunningly upon your favorite pool. Nothing 
happens. Nothing continues to happen all that day 
and the next and the next. 



THE DIVER TAKES TO PINOCHLE 147 

From then on, as the seasons pass, you give the 
good old yellow bottle-washer a tryout now and then. 
It is just ten years later when at last a nine-inch 
brookie gathers it in. Looking at the fish after it is 
netted, you discover that he is blind in one eye* 

This sort of thing is pretty discouraging to those 
of us who like to know at all times just where we 
stand. It is all but disastrous to the reputation of 
the expert. I know a man a scientific fellow who 
has devoted a lifetime to an exhaustive study of all 
varieties of trout from egg to creeL Less dis- 
tinguished anglers now agree that no man who has 
ever lived can hope to rival him in the number of 
things he knows about fish and fishing that aren't so. 

Despite the hopelessness of trying to determine 
definitely when or why trout will or will not rise on 
any given day, the years will indubitably bring to any 
persistent angler certain precepts that he can safely 
rely on. He will learn, for example, that any trout 
which reaches the respectable length of fourteen 
inches can, in the twinkling of an eye, add noticeably 
to his dimensions. He does this by simply giving a 
glimpse of himself as he rises to a fly which he does 
not take* From that instant he becomes in the mind 
of the beholder and in the recounting of the episode 
afterwards "about sixteen inches/' 



148 SPORTING DAYS 

On the other hand, a similar fish can also shrink. 
He need only take the fly and later be displayed to a 
fellow angler as he stretches his now curiously un- 
impressive length in the grassy depths of the creel. 
An indifferent inspection will invariably be followed 
by "close to thirteen." 

These, as I have already suggested, are among 
the certainties of angling. I shall now endeavor to 
recall the time, the place and the manner of my 
learning yet another of the few indisputable truths 
that are within the knowledge of most experienced 
trout fishermen. 

In the late spring of a distant year fifteen springs 
have passed since then The Pelican, or Great 
Diver, had accompanied me, at my suggestion, to 
the Ausable River. We proposed to devote a month 
to the pursuit and capture of brown, rainbow and 
native trout in that notably treacherous stream. 

It was early in our association so early, in fact, 
that I had not fished the Ausable heretofore and The 
Diver had not yet acquired the proud title that has 
ever since been his. I bestowed it on him at supper 
one evening on our return from a particularly ap- 
palling stretch of rocks and fast water. He had spent 
the greater part of the day, so it seemed to me, be- 
low the surface. 



THE DIVER TAKES TO PINOCHLE 149 

"Kid away, Oscar," he said, "but here's a thought: 
I get wet and I get fish." 

Since his creel that evening had been twice as 
heavy as mine, I allowed the nice distribution of 
some ketchup over a mound of baked beans to ab- 
sorb my attention for a time. At last I rallied. 

"Sooner or later you're going to break an arm or 
a leg or your fool neck." 

I spoke lightly, to be sure, but not without certain 
inner trepidations. Any day, I felt, my prophecy 
might be fulfilled. Even now I cannot understand 
why, as the years have passed, The Diver continues 
his headlong career, up and down a multitude of 
rivers, still entirely regardless of where he sets his 
feet and still singularly hale in wind and limb, 

I went to bed that night, I remember, troubled 
by the thought that I had introduced The Diver to 
the most precarious wading I had ever encountered, 
and shuddered as I recalled that the man had a wife 
and children, I was in no wise relieved next morning 
as I watched him spin, twirl and stagger downstream 
in the wake of a good-sized rainbow that he had 
succeeded in hooking- Unable to bear the spectacle 
longer, I made my way to a pool farther up the river, 
the bottom of which was not quite so diabolical as 
the stretch which The Diver had elected to fish- 



150 SPORTING DAYS 

I caught nothing in the next few hours. My fail- 
ure, I felt, was due to lack of concentration* How 
could a man fish who wondered steadily between casts 
whether or not his companion was by now a bruised 
corpse lying somewhere in the turmoil of Ausable 
Gorge ? 

I was doubly cheered, however, to find, when I 
joined The Diver for lunch, that he was both alive 
and fishless. 

"Skunked," he informed me as he stood and 
dripped. "Just one of those days." 

"What became of the rainbow that had you in 
tow when I left?" I asked. 

"Tore out. Haven't had a rise since." 
The rest of that day was also blank. So likewise 
were several days that followed. We cast our arms 
off without reward. The trout of the Ausable ap- 
peared to have become definitely opposed to the idea 
of sustenance. The mere thought of food seemed re- 
pugnant to them. 

We shook our heads despondently over the situa- 
tion each evening and sweated and cast in vain each 
day, but and this is one of the mysteries of the 
anglers* world in our heart of hearts we were not 
unduly depressed. Your ardent trouter needs only 
water that he knows contains fish to remain reason- 



THE DIVER TAKES TO PINOCHLE 1 5 1 

ably contented. The practice of his art and an ever- 
present hope will sustain his indescribable inner glow 
for days on end. 

My chief anxiety continued to be The Diver. His 
efforts seemed to increase as the fishing got worse. 
They became so- spectacular that tight-rope walking 
on a high wire appeared eminently safe compared to 
some of his pyrotechnics in midstream. 

I suggested that we try the Beaverkill or the west 
branch of the Delaware, but The Diver refused to 
go elsewhere. 

"When it's dead/' he informed me, "it's dead all 
over. This is a sweet piece of water, Gus. Interesting. 
Keeps a guy on his toes." 

"You mean nose, don't you?" 

"Just a kidder. Just a born kidder." 

One morning as I climbed out of a pool I came 
face to face with an acquaintance and fellow angler 
whom I had failed to encounter that season on any 
of his chosen rivers* 

"Didn't see you on the Broadhead or the Esopus," 
I said, 

"Nope," said he. "Been in Maine/' Whereupon 
he proceeded to relate a tale involving a certain 
northern lake and stream that held me spellbound. 



SPORTING DAYS 

"Never," he wound up, "have I dreamed of such 
fishing. Never. It was simply unbelievable." 

"Listen," I said. "I've got no right to ask you, 
but I'm going to. Just where is it, and how do you 
get there?" 

I was both pleased and dumbfounded at the 
alacrity with which he confided to me the precious 
knowledge I was seeking. Then a thought gave me 
pause. 

"Why did you leave it and come here?" I de- 
manded. 

He was wading into the pool I had just quitted, 
stripping out line for his first cast. 

"Too many fish," he said, and shot his fly expertly 
out upon the surface. 

Now this was an upright citizen of unquestioned 
probity whose word was as good as his bond. Too 
many fish ! I was deeply stirred. I had never been 
where there were too many fish. I doubted the pos- 
sibility of there being anywhere on the globe a body 
of water containing, so far as I was concerned, too 
many fish. Furthermore, here was a chance to dis- 
tract The Diver from his present hazardous under- 
takings and bear him off to less spectacular angling. I 
dashed downstream, summoned him from the river, 



THE DIVER TAKES TO PINOCHLE 15 

and proceeded to set his soul aflame by repeatin 
the pregnant phrase I had just heard. 

"But listen, Hubert," said he, with a last shre 
of caution, "maybe this guy's giving you the rur 
around." 

"Not a chance. I've known him for years. Yo 
can bank on anything he says." 

"Too many fish, eh I How do we get there?" 

"Drive five hundred miles and take a boat up th 
Penobscot, then go in by buckboard. The boat run 
once a week." 

"Mere detail. If the boat isn't there, we'll swim. 

Some few days later The Diver and I followed 
buckboard and plodding team around the final ben 
of a 2O-mile trail and came at last to the lake of ou 
seeking. It lay like a great rose-colored mirror, b< 
tween three purple mountains, in the last of tha 
day's sun. 

Having walked eighteen of the twenty miles 
sooner than submit to the inevitable spinal fracture 
that riding in that buckboard over that trail woul 
have entailed, we now stood at gaze like weary pi" 
grims whose eyes at last behold the towers of Mecca 

Our host, who was driving the buckboard, brok 
in upon our ecstatic contemplations, "Well, boys 



SPORTING DAYS 

there she is," he said. "Better get in and ride ncr 
It ain't so bad from here to camp." 

We climbed into the buckboard and clung to rf 
seat and one another as the dauntless vehicle negot 
ated the last mile of that unspeakable trail. Present! 
we arrived at "Camp Killkare." A row of log cabir 
with rustic porches along a shore of the lake. 

We drove past according to birchbark signs 
Wildwood Cabin, Sunrise Cabin, Lakeview Cabir 
and so came at last to Moonbeam Cabin, where th< 
tired team halted promptly at command. 

"We're putting you boys here in Moonbeam/ 
our host informed us. "We eat in Waldorf the big 
one in the middle. Supper'll be in thirty minutes, 
You'll find soap and water and towels inside if you 
want to kind of freshen up." 

The Diver, unloading duffel and heaving it on to 
the front porch, was keeping a dreamy eye on the 
lake. 

"Have we got time to wet a line before supper?" 

"Sure, if you're a mind to.* 1 

We dived simultaneously for rod cases* 

"Where is the best place to fish around here?' 1 I 
inquired. 

Our host indicated the entire shore line with a 
sweeping gesture. 



THE DIVER TAKES TO PINOCHLE 155 

"Just anywhere. You might keep a few if you're 
trout hungry. The other boys don't fish so much here 
lately." 

The Diver's hurried efforts to assemble his rod 
ceased abruptly. He became suddenly rigid, a rod 
joint in either hand. 

"Why not?" he inquired. 

"Well, they've sort of took up pinochle." 

"Pinochle!" The Diver spat out the word as 
though ridding his mouth of something both poison- 
ous and decayed. 

"Yes, sir ; they tell me it's a real interestin* game. 
Well, I gotta get the team put up. See you at 
supper-" 

The buckboard with its patient roan and sorrel 
bore him away. 

We stood gazing at each other in sickening silence* 
It was broken at last. 

"So we come nine thousand miles because your 
friend Baron Munchausen wanted the Ausable to 
himself." The Diver laughed. 

As though it were an echo of that despairing 
laughter, a loon's hideous cackle came to us from 
somewhere out on the lake* 

The effect of my eighteen-mile walk hit me like 
the kick of a mule- 1 became one big ache. 



156 SPORTING DAYS 

"Maybe they aren't fishermen," I falter 

"Then why did they come here?" 

I could think of no answer to that una 
question. 

"Zeke," said The Diver, "we've been c^~. 
Come on, I'll prove it." 

He stalked grimly to the edge of the lake and 
made a first cast, with two sizable wet flies, into that 
sheet of painted fairy-like water. An instant boil dis- 
turbed the brooding surface. 

"Socko!" said The Diver. "Come to papal" 

Shortly thereafter he carefully netted two native 
trout that seemed to have been poured from the 
same mold. They were beautiful, richly colored fish 
about twelve inches long. 

"This," said The Diver, "is the life. Take a shot 
at it, George!" 

I hastened to obey. A similar boiL A brief 
struggle. I netted twin brothers. The Diver's pair 
and mine were apparently quadruplets. 

And now The Diver cast again, 

"Socko 1" 

He failed to use his net on this pair. They were 
simply dragged out on the small flat beach from 
which we were fishing. "I'm sending the Baron a 



THE DIVER TAKES TO PINOCHLE I $7 

dozen flies for Christmas," he informed me. "Or 
maybe he'd like a nice two-piece rod." 

Then I cast* 

"Don't keep those two," said The Diver as I 
beached the resulting double. "We've got six al- 
ready." His wrist flicked the flies settled on the 
surface. Came the unescapable boil. But now the 
exultant "Sockol" was not heard. It remained un- 
uttered while twenty minutes passed and there was 
no variety to our proceedings, or to the number and 
size of the trout we took. "Socko!" was out. 

At last The Diver desisted. He turned a troubled 
eye my way. 

"Let's move on away from here, Al. They're 
ganging us." 

So we moved fifty yards along the shore. I cast. 
Two trout exactly like the ones we had taken further 
down the lake I 

The Diver cast. Ditto! He unhooked this last 
pair and watched them shoot like twin torpedoes 
into protecting greeny depths. 

"Just two little Moonbeams entirely surrounded 
by fish. What'll we do?" 

"Maybe the stream's different," I suggested. 

"That's a thought," The Diver brightened. 
"We'll try her in the morning." 



158 SPORTING DAYS 

A tinny whanging now smote the air. It came, we 
discovered, from the front porch of Waldorf, where 
a stout woman was belaboring a dishpan with sig- 
nificant gusto. We moved in silence toward the 
sound. 

Presently we encountered half a dozen card play- 
ers, their head-gear decorated with a varied assort- 
ment of flies, in a deer-antlered living room. They 
looked up as we entered, mumbled greetings, and 
joined us without enthusiasm at the supper table. 

"We've been fishing the lake," said The Diver 
as he placed a paper napkin across his knees. "It's 
got us down. I don't see how a piece of water can 
hold that many trout." 

An erstwhile card player who had just forked a 
piece of cold tongue from a platter held his trophy 
poised in mid-air and sighed heavily. 

"Until you fish the stream, brother, you ain't 
seen nothinV The slab of tongue was slapped down 
and inspected. "Somebody pass the mustard." 

Despite this disheartening pronouncement, early 
morning found The Diver and me heading for a 
lumber dam at the foot of the lake over which 
spilled the water that formed the stream. Working 
our way out to the middle of the apron of the dam t 
we observed the top pool of a merry little river that 



THE DIVER TAKES TO PINOCHLE 159 

wound away from us through alders and white birch 
and pine. The quiet pool at our feet, unbroken by 
ephemeral tell-tale rings, showed not a sign of life. 

"Nothing rising," said The Diver with strange 
satisfaction* 

As he prepared to make his initial cast his fly 
swung from his rod tip over the pool some six or 
seven inches from the surface. The fly dangled there 
for an instant. A trout hurled itself out of the water 
at the fly. The fish fell back with a splash as another 
hurtled into the air, and another, and then another. 
In a moment there was a sort of perpetual fountain 
of trout below that fly, none of which managed to 
reach it. 

The Diver watched this extraordinary piscatorial 
upheaval in silence. At last he spoke. 

"Back to the Ausable for us. When does that 
boat come up the Penobscot again?" 

"Not until Wednesday-" 

The Diver thought this over. "Ever play pinochle, 
Archibald?" 

"No." 

"Well, here's where you're going to learn." 

Thus I discovered one of the few axioms of fly- 
fishing. Life can be pleasant with the creel still 
empty, but "too many fish" cannot be long endured, 

0)